Epiphanius, Panarion, Heresies 78.14.1

Epiphanius characterizes James as a high priest. On one occasion, he describes James’ prayer for rain in a way that evokes James 5:17-18, and James’ description of Elijah’s prayer for drought and for rain.

Οὗτος ὁ Ἰάκωβος καὶ πέταλον ἐπὶ τῆς κεφαλῆς ἐφόρεσε· καὶ ποτὲ ἀβροχίας γενομένης ἐπῆρε τὰς χεῖρας εἰς οὐρανὸν καὶ προσηύξατο, καὶ εὐθὺς ὁ οὐρανὸς ἔδωκεν ὑετόν.

See his Panarion, Heresies 78.14.1.

See Theodor Zahn (p. 265), who notes that the passage is reminiscent of Jas 5:17 ff., and compares the incident briefly to Nakdimon’s prayer for rain in b.Taanith 19b-20a:

Mitten in der in allem Wesentlichen nach Heg. Wiedererzählten Geschichte des Jk findet sich auch die Erzählung von einem Gebet des Jk um lange ersehnten Regen, das Erhörung gefunden habe. 2) Die kurze Geschichte trägt Lokalfarbe. Sie paßt vorzüglich zu der Schilderung des beständig für sein ganzes Volk betenden Jakobus bei Heg. (oben S. 230). Daß sie ein jüngerer, etwa aus Jk 5,17f. erwachsener Mythus sein sollte, ist weniger wahrscheinlich, als daß sie zu den alten Traditionen von Jerusalem gehört, deren heg.

2) Haer. 78,14 καὶ ποτὲ ἀβροχίας γενομένης ἐπῆρε τὰς χεῖρας εἰς οὐρανὸν καὶ προσηύξατο, καὶ εὐθὺς ὁ οὐρανὸς ἔδωκεν ὑετόν. Der letzte Satz erinnert stark an Jk 5,18; auch ist zu bedenken, daß Jk 5,16 von δέησις δικαίου die Rede ist, und daß Jk ὁ δίκαιος hieß. — Im Talmud Thaanith 20 wird Ähnliches von Nakdimon = Nikodemus (Jo 3, 1) erzählt.

Theodor Zahn, “Brüder und Vettern Jesu.” Forschungen zur Geschichte des neutestamentlichen Kanons und der altkirchlichen Literatur 4 (1900): 225–364.

See also Pratscher, Herrenbruder, 1994.

Die große Frömmigkeit des Jakobus zeigt sich auch bei seinem Tod: er habe das ihm zugefügte Unrecht nicht als Beleidigung empfunden, sondern noch in der letzten Stunde deines Lebens für seine Peiniger gebetet (); seine Frömmigkeit ist so groß, daß es bei einer Dürre auf sein Gebet hin sofort zu regnen began (Pan LXXVIII 14,1). Es wird sich kaum entscheiden lassen, ob dieses letzte Motiv alter Tradition entstammt [n33] oder aus Jak 5,17f. herausgesponnen ist. Selbst wenn ersteres der Fall sein sollte, so identifiziert sich Epiphanius auf jeden Fall mit dieser Aussage und sagt dennoch nichts, was vom großkirchlichen Standpunkt aus nicht über Jakobus gesagt werden könnte.

Note that n33 refers to Zahn, Theodor: “Brüder und Vettern Jesu,” pg 265 in particular.

Attention should be paid to the tradition surrounding Honi the Circle Drawer & his prayers for rain (described by Josephus [Ant. §14, 2.1.22] and in Rabbinic Literature). See in particular Adolph Büchler, “Ḥoni the Ḥasid and his prayer for rain” Types of Jewish-Palestinian Piety from 70 B.C.E. to 70 C.E.: The Ancient Pious Men (New York: KTAV, 1968), 196-264.

See Josephus’ account below:

Now there was one, whose name was Onias, a righteous man be was, and beloved of God, who, in a certain drought, had prayed to God to put an end to the intense heat, and whose prayers God had heard, and had sent them rain. This man had hid himself, because he saw that this sedition would last a great while. However, they brought him to the Jewish camp, and desired, that as by his prayers he had once put an end to the drought, so he would in like manner make imprecations on Aristobulus and those of his faction. ᾽Ονίαν δέ τινα ὄνομα δίκαιον ὄντα καὶ θεοφιλῆ ὃς ἀνομβρίας ποτὲ οὔσης ηὔξατο τῷ θεῷ λῦσαι τὸν αὐχμὸν καὶ γενόμενος ἐπήκοος ὁ θεὸς ὗσεν κρύψαντα ἑαυτὸν διὰ τὸ τὴν στάσιν ὁρᾶν ἰσχυρὰν ἐπιμένουσαν ἀναχθέντα εἰς τὸ στρατόπεδον τῶν ᾽Ιουδαίων ἠξίουν ὡς ἔπαυσε τὴν ἀνομβρίαν εὐξάμενος ἵν᾽ οὕτως ἀρὰς θῇ κατὰ ᾽Αριστοβούλου καὶ τῶν συστασιαστῶν αὐτοῦ

7 thoughts on “Epiphanius, Panarion, Heresies 78.14.1”

  1. I wonder why no real discussion has appeared regarding James being a priest and wearing the zis before there were Christian priests. Epiphanius also comments this in 29.4.2-3. Oh, I hope the Claremont students find Hegesippus in St John’s Patmos!

  2. There’s been a little discussion of this. I think that most scholars reject the account outright because it is highly unlikely that James could have ever entered the Holy of Holies as Hegesippus and Epiphanius indicate. On the other hand, I think that it may have a ring of truth, given that the early church saw itself as a reconstituted “temple” in a way similar to how the Qumran community viewed itself. If this is the case, perhaps Epiphanius and Hegesippus take a description of a spiritual phenomenon/teaching and then make it more literal than it was originally intended.

  3. I am Sorry to get back so late on this. Perhaps he DID enter the Holy of Holies, on *his* Yom Kippur (everyone else’s Passover) and was tried by a kangaroo court and executed. I have run across a rumor in non-scholarly places, always 3rd-hand, that James was sawn asunder at his execution, after having been thrown from the pinnacle and clubbed. I have not been able to find an original citation of this, even though some iconography uses a saw for the arms of James. Any readers know whence this might have come?

  4. James’ “priesthood” is also mentioned in the Panarion, heresy twenty-nine (the Nazoreans), at least according to the F. Williams translation.

  5. Sorry that I took so long to respond.

    The section on James’ prayer for rain is in Epiphanius’ treatise against the Antidicomarianites. In Williams’ 1987 translation, it’s found in vol 2, page 611.

    The different numbering systems of the Panarion are a pain in the neck!

  6. Epiphanius’ remark about James as a high priest, entering the holy of holies, can be taken as true historically without interpretation. There is evidence in the New Testament that James was a legalist (Jews maintain their zeal for the law even after converting to his gospel, Acts 21:20). Eusebius and Jerome describe James as a legalist, who even as a Christian was held in high repute by the Jews. Also, Ephiphanius says James wore “the gold plate” on his head, which, in context discussing priestly duties, can only mean the gold plate described in Exodus 28:36 ff. as the one Aaron and furture high priests must wear.

    The only people that are bothered by the idea of a Christian being a Jewish High Priest while confessing Jesus at the same time, are Christians who have blindly accepted “apostle Paul” and his version of the gospel. That version says that the law was done away in Christ. However, as Acts 21:20 and Galatians 2:12 proves, James and the original Jewish church before Paul maintained zeal to do the law of Moses. The original gospel was nearly perfectly compatible with the continuing divine significance of temple sacrifices and the legalism. However, there was never any good reason to assume that Paul, the odd-ball apostle, preached the correct form of Christianity. Paul was frightened of how quickly his Galatian churches were leaving him and turning to the Judaizer gospel (Galatians 1:6-9). Apparantly, Paul’s apostleship and gospel was seriously disputed by Christians of equal or higher authority in the faith. Making us wonder why today’s Christians so blindly believe that “apostle” Paul was a true apostle, as if coming along 2000 years after the fact enables them to decide the dispute more objectively than Paul’s own contemporary opponents! When the reader drops the presupposition that Paul’s form of Christianity was correct, the reader opens the door to the possibility that original pre-Paul Christianity was so compatiable with Judaism, that a Christian leader could easily call Jesus Lord while doing animal sacrifice in the Holy of Holies. Lastly, the ancient Christian historians Epiphanius, Eusebius and Jerome were Paulists. They would never have placed James in a position looking so contrary to Paul’s gospel, if it wasn’t true. They knew that Paul’s version of Christianity nullified the animal sacrifices of the Holy of Holies. They are describing James in a way that they surely know makes him look directly contrary to Paul, something they would have written off as false history if they could have found any reason for doing so. The references to James being a high priest are not controversial to those who don’t blindly swallow the law-free version of the gospel Paul taught.

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