Was James the Just the leader of the church?

This is what Clement of Rome said about him, “Bishop of bishops, who rules Jerusalem, the Holy Assembly of Hebrews, and all assemblies everywhere.” Also in the gospel of Thomas Jesus makes James his successor. Was it James at the early leader of the church and not Peter?

Going by your quote, it said that he “rules Jerusalem”, not the whole Church. Bishop of bishops, without knowing more, could mean something like an archbishop over the surrounding area. The “all assemblies everywhere” could also just mean locally, like an archbishop.

Is there a fuller context?

The gospel of Thomas isn’t canonical, so don’t even have to go there.

The very fact that this quote is ascribed to a pope - a successor of St. Peter - tells that it was not James, but Peter who Christ named as his successor. Clement was not the successor of James - but of Peter.

The gospel of Thomas has no authority to speak on such matters.

I believe that this is falsely attributed to Clement. Do you have a source that says he actually said this?

I wonder what the context was for this comment by Clement as well. I know that often flowery language was used for the bishops and apostles. Maybe this is an example of that kind of language? It does seem a bit troubling at a glance since I don’t think any major church denomination sees James as the leader of the church, which would mean that all of us Christians have been in the dark about some important information for a long time.

Since the op did not cite a source I did a search and found that this is considered a pseudographical work.

The work appears to be pseudographical, so not genuine. St James, however, was the Bishop of Jerusalem or, if we are allowed to apply titles retroactively, Patriarch of Jerusalem. I would be careful using the title “Patriarch” to describe his position though, as the title didn’t gain canonical usage until after St James martyrdom.

It is interesting that this Jacobite movement should have spanned the period from around the end of the C1st (Thomas) to the beginning of the C4th (Pseudo-Clement). It makes me wonder how many other people wanted James to be so identified.

James the Less died in 62 A.D. and James the Greater died in 44 A.D. Peter was still pope in 64 A.D., when both Jameses were dead. Clement of Rome didn’t become pope until three pontificates had passed, decades after both Jameses were dead.

From these facts alone we can know that the supposed letter from Pope Clement to James the bishop of Jerusalem is spurious, and the quotation is therefore spurious too.

If James was the earthly head, then Jerusalem should have been a very important see in the ancient times. However, it is not. After Jerusalem was destroyed by Emperor Titus, it was rebuilt as the Roman town of Aelia Capitolina. All Jews were exiled from Jerusalem and even the Israelite bishops were replaced by Gentile ones. Thus, the see of Aelia (no longer Jerusalem) became obscure enough for it to become under Caesarea (a suffragan).

The Council of Nicaea accepted that only three sees had wider authority over the Church. These were Rome, Alexandria and Antioch. One theory was that these were sees founded by Peter (notice how he is emphasized). Thus, they were like Patriarchs. During the Council, Constantinople was added (simply because it became the new imperial residence) and after some dispute Jerusalem. Since Christianity became more accepted, pilgrimages to Jerusalem became more common and the bishop of Aelia demanded that he be also a patriarch and I suppose for it to be renamed Jerusalem.

However, at that time, this precedence was only honorary such as in a liturgical procession and in fact the see of Jerusalem was still suffragan to Caesarea. Thus, it is unlikely.

I agree with the others that said this so-called letter to James is not real. Here’s the page on New Advent about St. Clement of Rome, where it shows that there were some letters attributed to him that were known to be false. I also agree that the Gospel of Thomas is incorrect, and should never be seen or quoted as if it were scripture, because it’s not scripture. It apparently wasn’t included in the Bible for good reason.

My questions are tangential?

Is there any evidence other than Josephus which indicates whether James, the Bishop of Jerusalem, was or was not the euphemistic ‘‘brother of Jesus’’ from the Gospel?

Also, the author of the book ‘Zealot’, Reza Aslan, on CSpan BookTV represented that James the Brother of Jesus was undisputedly the dominant leader of the Christian church until his death in AD 66 and that he consistently maintained that all Christians must follow the laws of Moses.

Has anyone who read his books seen any substantiation of these claims?

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