Talmidi Library

Articles on Talmidaism Theology

More on Ya`aqov bar Qlofah, and the succession of Nasis


For most Christians, Ya`aqov bar Qlofah is an almost unknown figure. When he is mentioned at all, he is known in English as “James, the son of Clophas,” or “James the Just, the brother of Jesus”. He was the author of the “Letter of St James” in the Christian New Testament. For Christianity, it is more convenient for him to remain a hidden, half-forgotten character.

However, to ancient Followers of the Way, he was the second most important figure in the Talmidi community after the Prophet Yeshua` himself. Whereas Yeshua` ministered, healed and taught for just 3 or 4 years, from 26 – 30 CE, Ya`aqov was the leader of the entire world community of Followers – the Nasi – for nearly 30 years. He ministered and led us wisely from about 32 CE until his tragic execution in 62 CE.

In his book, James, Brother of Jesus, Pierre Antoine Bernheim writes, “Several texts . . . found at Nag Hammadi give James a pre-eminent position in the [early Follower community]. He is presented as the main beneficiary of the teaching of Jesus. In the Gospel of Thomas . . . . Jesus designates James the Just as the one whom his disciples are to follow after his own departure. In the Apocryphal Letter of James, . . . . Jesus reveals his teaching to James and Peter, the pre-eminence of James being suggested several times.” (words in square brackets my editing for clarity)

In his book, The Church of the First Days, Cardinal Jean Danielou writes, “It was the party of James and the [community of Jewish Followers in] Jerusalem that exercised the dominant influence during the first decades of the Church.”(words in square brackets my editing for clarity)

According to Hegesippus and Eusebius (Christian writers of the 2nd century CE), Ya`aqov was the son of Qlofah. Qlofah in turn was the brother of Yosef, who was the father of Yeshua`. This made Ya`aqov a first cousin of Yeshua` on his father’s side. In ancient Hebrew and Aramaic, there was at the time no real word for “cousin”, so Ya`aqov has been commonly referred to as Yeshua`’s brother.

Ya`aqov was younger than Yeshua`, but we do not know by how much. He was probably in his early 60’s when he was executed.

Ya`aqov and Peter

Why would Christianity rather forget Ya`aqov? On the one hand, it is may have been an uncomfortable embarrassment that Yeshua` had any living relatives surviving him for so long, let alone a “brother”. On the other hand, if Ya`aqov were acknowledged as overall leader of Yeshua`’s Jewish followers after his death, then that poses a very difficult and disconcerting question over the position of St Peter, and the Church’s claim that he was the head of the whole Christian Church (or what modern Christians perceive to have been the Christian Church).

However, in Acts 15, Peter is reprimanded for having relaxed the Law of Moses, and Paul is recalled to Jerusalem to explain his actions. Why would Peter be reprimanded if he had been the leader of the community? Why would a subordinate (supposedly James / Ya`aqov) be reprimanding his superior (supposedly Peter)? And why would Ya`aqov preside over the council meeting which disciplines Paul and, in my view, expels Christianity?

The only answer can be that Ya`aqov was in fact Peter’s hierarchical superior, and Peter’s boss Ya`aqov was basically pulling him back to toe the party line

Ya`aqov and the Temple leadership

Ya`aqov was apparently a continual irritation to the Temple authorities, but it seems that the presence of a Roman governor kept a lid on things (after all, no matter how much the Romans hated the Jews, they couldn’t allow rivalries to boil over and threaten the position of Rome). Unfortunately the governor, Festus, died suddenly in the year 62 CE, and it was 3 months before his successor, Albinus, could take over. In Josephus’ work Antiquities, book XX, he describes how the High Priest Hananiah took advantage of this window of opportunity to have Ya`aqov arrested and stoned to death. It seems that the due process of Jewish law was not adhered to, and Ya`aqov (now crowned with the title ‘the Righteous’) had been highly respected by the Pharisees. They complained to Albinus, who sent word to Hananiah for convening a trial without his consent. King Agrippa, fearing that this could blow up out of all proportion, deposed Hananiah from the position of High Priest.

The person and character of Ya`aqov

The 4th century work, Clementine Recognitions, which is more than likely based on 2nd century Talmidi writings, has much to say on the person of Ya`aqov. They put him at the head of the community, and one passage even has him trying to stop the onslaught of Christian teachers posing as Followers of the Way in order to corrupt Talmidi teaching and belief:

“Observe the greatest caution, that you believe no teacher unless he bring from Jerusalem the testimonial of Ya`aqov the brother of the Master, or of whosoever is elected after him. For no one, unless he has gone up to there and has been approved as a fit and faithful Emissary for preaching the words of Yeshua`, is by any means to be received. Receive no one, I say, unless he brings with him a testimonial thence”.

It seems that Ya`aqov was considered a pious and a holy man by many Jews, greatly respected even by the Pharisees. Some of his words and teachings may even have gotten mixed up with those of Yeshua` (for example, in Clementine Recognitions, it is Ya`aqov who, shortly before he is stoned to death, says, “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do”).

Clem. Rec. records that “Ya`aqov, the brother of the Master, received the leadership of the community together with the Emissaries (Apostles). From the time of Yeshua` to our own, all call him the Just, and many were called Ya`aqov after him. This man was sanctified from the time of his birth.”

It would also seem that Ya`aqov was a prolific letter writer. Unfortunately, we only have one letter left to us (the aforementioned Letter of St James). It was a common practice among early Christians, that they would steal and amend Talmidi documents to suit their own beliefs. What they could not change, they destroyed. This seems to have been the lamentable fate of the majority of Talmidi writings.

When Paul of Tarsus was recalled to Jerusalem to explain why he had relaxed Jewish Law for Gentile converts, Clem. Rec. records that Paul physically attacked Ya`aqov, but that Ya`aqov later forgave him.

Folk tradition records that as Ya`aqov was being led to his death, he showed great dignity and faith. His executioner, greatly moved by him, and by the honour and reverence the people had for him, asked to become a Follower of the Way. Another executioner took over. Ya`aqov forgave his new executioner, and the two died together. Ya`aqov died at the first blow.

Shim`on Nasi

Nasi is the Hebrew word for “President” (the Aramaic equivalent is n”siya). The Nasi was elected by representatives of all the Talmidi schools and sects. Nasi’s held the ultimate word and authority in the Talmidi community.

After Ya`aqov Nasi’s death, it appears that the Council of Elders wanted a relative of Yeshua` who knew him in life to lead them, so Ya`aqov’s youngest brother, Shim`on bar Qlofah, was elected. Shim`on was in his late 50’s at this point.

Some scholars believe that the Book of Revelation is actually a “Jewish-Christian” text, with many Christian additions. If you remove the Christian interpolations, you are left with a vision which advises Followers to leave Jerusalem and flee before the Romans destroy the city in 70 CE.

Shim`on Nasi must have led some Followers to escape across the Jordan. Some traditions say they went to Pella, modern Qirbet Fahil in the Kingdom of Jordan. More likely is that they scattered throughout the TransJordan, returning only when events calmed down.

Shim`on died at a great age in the year 109 CE. Christians were constantly peeved that he opposed their divine view of Jesus (after all, Shim`on was a relative, and knew him when he was alive). Shim`on Nasi was the last man alive to have personally known Yeshua`, and I guess that Christians felt that he was the last obstacle in the fight to wipe out the real, historical Yeshua`, and replace him with the god-man Jesus. False charges of sedition were brought against him, and under orders of the Emperor Trajan, Shim`on Nasi was crucified for being a terrorist leader

No relative of Yeshua` could be found alive who actually knew him personally, so the Council of Elders elected a loyal Hellenicist, Yustus, to succeed him. Yustus Nasi led the community for six years before he too was murdered.

Six years after that, his successor Toviyah was also murdered, so the Council decided that the appointment should be an annual one after Zakkai Nasi’s term of office.

The last Nasi, Yehudah Nasi, held office during the Bar Kochba Revolt (132 – 135 CE). While Followers agreed with Bar Kochba’s aspirations for freedom and independence for the Jewish people, they could not agree with his messianic claims. For this, Bar Kochba’s followers killed Yehudah Nasi, and scattered the remaining Follower communities in Judea.

When the Romans completely cleared Jerusalem of all Jews at the end of the revolt, Christians completely replaced Followers in the now pagan city of Jerusalem, renamed Aelia Capitolina. They considered themselves the rightful heirs of the rapidly diminishing Follower community, and began the wholesale process of usurping our history. What they could not take over they changed or expunged.

A Complete List of the Nasi’s of the Follower Community

Below is a complete list of the Nasi’s of ancient Talmidaism.

We bless You and honour You, O YHVH our God, that you gave us such men of holiness and piety as these, to lead us and guide us.

1. Ya`aqov bar Qlofah c.32 to 62 CE
2. Shim`on bar Qlofah 63 to c. 109 CE
3. Yustus I c. 110 to 116 CE
4. Zakkai 116 to 122 CE
5. Toviyah 123 CE
6. Benyamin 124 CE
7. Yochanan 125 CE
8. Mattithiyah 126 CE
9. Philip 127 CE
10. Seneca 128 CE
11. Yustus II 129 CE
12. Levi 130 CE
13. Efrayim 131 CE
14. Yosef 132 CE
15. Yehudah 133 CE