What did James, the purported half brother of Jesus have to say about true faith?
James “The Just” is the purported half brother of Jesus (peace be upon him) in the Bible. He was also the first Patriarch of Jerusalem according to the accounts of Early Church historians.
Many contemporary Christian scholars agree that the message that James preached, as far as faith was defined, was exceedingly at odds with the message that Paul was preaching. One of the points of contention was over whether the new followers of Christ (Christians, although not known by that name at the time) should follow Mosaic Law.
The Council of Jerusalem is where the two leaders met to discuss their differences.
The purpose of the council, according to Acts, was to resolve a disagreement within the Early Christian community between those, such as the followers of the Pillars of the Church, led by James who believed the church must observe the rules of traditional Judaism, and Paul of Tarsus, who believed there was no such necessity.
For More on the Council of Jerusalem:
This is where I get confused: Was it not James whom actually knew Jesus while he was alive and Paul the one whom never met Jesus in real life aside from his claimed vision on the road to Damascus? It seems logical that James would definitely have understood what Jesus was teaching and whether he followed the Laws of Moses or not.
Was it not James that purportedly grew up with his half brother Jesus? Was it not James that would’ve intimately known how his brother thought and taught?
I find the notion very illogical that Paul would've understood Jesus' teachings better than that of James since James was actually a significant person in Jesus' actual life on Earth and was part of his inner circle. I don’t know I just find Paul’s credibility less than that of James. Even his nickname seems to secure his testimony as a witness to the true teachings of Christ, “James the Just.”
In the Bible, the epistle of James is remarkable. It contains not only a directly developed discourse on the subjects of its choice, but hints and references to all of the major doctrinal issues and to many matters of practice. Many of these are reminiscent of Islamic values, practices, and beliefs. Indeed, the religion that James speaks of in the Gospel is very Islamic by nature.
According to James, what does God accept as “pure & faultless religion”?
“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” - New Testament (James 1:27)
"He indeed shall be successful who purifies himself, And magnifies the name of his Lord and prays. Nay! you prefer the life of this world, While the hereafter is better and more lasting. Most surely this is in the earlier scriptures, The scriptures of Abraham and Moses.” - Qur’an English Translation [87:14-19]
"By the Soul, and the proportion and order given to it; And its enlightenment as
to its wrong and its right;-
Truly he succeeds that purifies it, And he fails that corrupts it”
- Qur’an English Translation [91:7-10]
James warns to keep oneself from being polluted and corrupted by the mundane or worldly. Indeed the Qur'an suggests the same. This is most clearly evidenced in the verses in which intoxicants and gambling are forbidden.
Unfortunately in today's world there are many people who participate in these acts that only serve to cloud one's judgment and breed an atmosphere of carelessness, aggression, and a multitude of other degrading/detrimental effects. Only God knows how many countless lives and families have been ruined due to the addictions and mal-effects of these pollutants?
"They ask thee concerning wine and gambling. Say: "In them is great sin, and some profit, for men; but the sin is greater than the profit." They ask thee how much they are to spend; Say: "What is beyond your needs." Thus doth Allah Make clear to you His Signs: In order that ye may consider- ” - Qur’an English Translation [2:219]
"O ye who believe!
Intoxicants and gambling, (dedication of) stones, and (divination by) arrows,
are an abomination,- of Satan's handwork:
eschew such (abomination), that ye may prosper. Satan's plan is (but) to excite
enmity and hatred between you, with intoxicants and gambling, and hinder you
from the remembrance of Allah, and from prayer: will ye not then abstain?”
- Qur’an English Translation [5:90-91]
Often people follow their own passions and lusts to a detriment, polluting their soul while further straying from the straight path of understanding and guidance.
"Hast thou seen him who chooseth for his god his own lust? Wouldst thou then be guardian over him? Or deemest thou that most of them hear or understand? They are but as the cattle - nay, but they are farther astray?" - Qur’an English Translation [25:43-44]
Additionally, it’s very interesting that James stresses the importance of aiding orphans and widows as the “pure religion that God accepts.” The Qur’an emphasizes this issue many times throughout its verses and indeed urges the righteous believers to support orphans and widows in times of need. Indeed, the Prophet Muhammad himself grew up as an orphan and his first wife was a widow by the name of Khadija, whom actually proposed to him.
"Did He not find thee an orphan and give thee shelter (and care)? And He found thee wandering, and He gave thee guidance. And He found thee in need, and made thee independent. Therefore, treat not the orphan with harshness, Nor repulse the petitioner (unheard); But the bounty of the Lord - rehearse and proclaim!" - Qur’an English Translation [93:6-11]
So what does the Qur’an have to say about faith and religion?
“Do you know who really rejects the faith? That is the one who mistreats the orphans. And does not advocate the feeding of the poor. And woe to those who observe the contact prayers (Salat) - who are totally heedless of their prayers. They only show off. And they forbid charity.” - Qur’an English Translation [107:1-7]
A few more passages from The Qur'an speaking of orphans:
“It is not righteousness that ye turn your faces Towards east or West; but it is righteousness- to believe in Allah and the Last Day, and the Angels, and the Book, and the Messengers; to spend of your substance, out of love for Him, for your kin, for orphans, for the needy, for the wayfarer, for those who ask, and for the ransom of slaves; to be steadfast in prayer, and practice regular charity; to fulfill the contracts which ye have made; and to be firm and patient, in pain (or suffering) and adversity, and throughout all periods of panic. Such are the people of truth, the Allah (God) fearing.” - Qur’an English Translation [2:177]
"They ask you, (O Muhammad), what they shall spend. Say: that which you spend for good (must go) to parents and near kindred and orphans and the needy and the wayfarer. And whatsoever good you do, lo! Allah is Aware of it." - Qur’an English Translation [2:215]
“And remember We took a covenant from the Children of Israel (to this effect): Worship none but Allah. treat with kindness your parents and kindred, and orphans and those in need; speak fair to the people; be steadfast in prayer; and practice regular charity. Then did ye turn back, except a few among you, and ye backslide (even now).” - Qur’an English Translation [2:83]
(Their bearings) on this life and the Hereafter. They ask thee concerning orphans. Say: "The best thing to do is what is for their good; if ye mix their affairs with yours, they are your brethren; but Allah knows the man who means mischief from the man who means good. And if Allah had wished, He could have put you into difficulties: He is indeed Exalted in Power, Wise." - Qur’an English Translation [2:220]
“Serve Allah, and join not any partners with Him; and do good- to parents, kinsfolk, orphans, those in need, neighbors who are near, neighbors who are strangers, the companion by your side, the wayfarer (ye meet), and what your right hands possess: For Allah loveth not the arrogant, the vainglorious;” - Qur’an English Translation [4:36]
"Have We not made for him a pair of eyes?- And a tongue, and a pair of lips?- And shown him the two highways? But he hath made no haste on the path that is steep. And what will explain to thee the path that is steep?- (It is:) freeing the bondman; Or the giving of food in a day of privation To the orphan with claims of relationship, Or to the indigent (down) in the dust. Then will he be of those who believe, and enjoin patience, (constancy, and self-restraint), and enjoin deeds of kindness and compassion. Such are the Companions of the Right Hand. But those who reject Our Signs, they are the (unhappy) Companions of the Left Hand. On them will be Fire vaulted over (all round)." – Qur’an English Translation [90:8-20]
What does the Old Testament and Jewish Bible say about orphans and widows?
“learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless (orphans), plead the case of the widow.” Old Testament (Tanakh) (Isaiah 1:17)
The importance of having faith and doing good deeds
Furthermore, many New Testament scholars have noted that the epistles of the Apostles did not include the idea of salvation by redemption; rather they suggested that salvation is attained by faith and good deeds, as it says in the Epistle of James. This notion of salvation by faith and good deeds is exactly what the Qur’an speaks of.
“What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?” - New Testament (James 2:14)
“In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” - New Testament (James 2:17)
“You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness," and he was called God's friend. You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.” - New Testament (James 2:20-24)
Is the following verse from the Qur’an not the quintessential message of faith and deeds?
“It is not righteousness that ye turn your faces Towards east or West; but it is righteousness- to believe in Allah (God) and the Last Day, and the Angels, and the Book, and the Messengers; to spend of your substance, out of love for Him, for your kin, for orphans, for the needy, for the wayfarer, for those who ask, and for the ransom of slaves; to be steadfast in prayer, and practice regular charity; to fulfill the contracts which ye have made; and to be firm and patient, in pain (or suffering) and adversity, and throughout all periods of panic. Such are the people of truth, the Allah (God) fearing.” - Qur’an English Translation [2:177]
The importance of saying "If God wills"
James also tells the faithful to add the phrase “If God wills” before doing anything.
“Now listen, you
who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there,
carry on business and make money." Why, you do not even know what will happen
tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and
then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will,
we will live and do this or that." - New Testament (James 4:13-15)
Compare this to the Quran's recommendation on the issue:
And say not of anything: Lo! I shall do that tomorrow, Except if Allah (God) will. And remember thy Lord when thou forgettest, and say: It may be that my Lord guideth me unto a nearer way of truth than this. - Qur’an English Translation [18:23-24]
Muslims say “If God wills” or Insha’Allah for just about everything. Muslims use this expression regularly. For example, a man will go to the kitchen to get a glass of water and will say “I’ll be right back, Insha’Allah.” And if you’ve been around Muslims a lot, then you know exactly what I’m talking about.
The same word used for "Hell" in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam
Additionally, the term for ‘Hell-fire’ used by James is the nearly exact word that Arabs and Muslims use:
The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by Gehenna (hell).
Gehanna is a variant of the Hebrew word Gehenom; the Islamic version is nearly identical, Jahannam.
In fact even Jesus uses this same term in the New Testament:
“Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna (hell).
For more on the term "Gehanna":
I think it’s pretty fair to say that James, the purported brother of Jesus, would recognize Islam as the Religion of Truth or as Muslims say in Arabic the "Din Al-Haq." Indeed, Abraham, Noah, Moses, Jacob, David, Jesus, Muhammad and all of the Prophets aforetime (may peace be upon them) would agree upon this conclusion because they too submitted their wills to God (i.e. were Muslims).
"The same religion has He established for you as that which He enjoined on Noah - the which We have sent by inspiration to thee (Muhammad) - and that which We enjoined on Abraham, Moses, and Jesus: Namely, that ye should remain steadfast in religion, and make no divisions therein: to those who worship other things than Allah, hard is the (way) to which thou callest them. Allah (God) chooses to Himself those whom He pleases, and guides to Himself those who turn (to Him)." - Qur’an English Translation [42:13]
For more on James the Just:
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