The 700 Club with Pat Robertson

700 Club Special

Historical Sources on the Family of Jesus

The 700 Club

On the genealogy of Jesus:
But as up to that time the genealogies of the Hebrews had been registered in the public archives, and those, too, which were traced back to the proselytes --as, for example, to Achior the Ammanite, and Ruth the Moabitess, and those who left Egypt along with the Israelites, and intermarried with them--Herod, knowing that the lineage of the Israelites contributed nothing to him, and goaded by the consciousness of his ignoble birth, burned the registers of their families. This he did, thinking that he would appear to be of noble birth, if no one else could trace back his descent by the public register to the patriarchs or proselytes, and to that mixed race called georae.

A few, however, of the studious, having private records of their own, either by remembering the names or by getting at them in some other way from the archives, pride themselves in preserving the memory of their noble descent; and among these happen to be those already mentioned, called desposyni, (“belonging to the Lord”) on account of their connection with the family of the Saviour. And these coming from Nazara (Nazareth) and Cochaba, Judean villages, to other parts of the country, set forth the above-named genealogy… The Gospel, however, in any case states the truth.”

-- Julius Africanus, The Epistle to Aristides, Section V (A.D. 180-240)

On the Martyrdom of James, the Brother of Jesus
According to Hegesippus, the scribes and Pharisees came to James for help in putting down Christian beliefs. The record says:

“They came, therefore, in a body to James, and said: ‘We entreat thee, restrain the people: for they are gone astray in their opinions about Jesus, as if he were the Christ. We entreat thee to persuade all who have come hither for the day of the Passover, concerning Jesus. For we all listen to thy persuasion; since we, as well as all the people, bear thee testimony that thou art just, and showest partiality to none. Do thou, therefore, persuade the people not to entertain erroneous opinions concerning Jesus: for all the people, and we also, listen to thy persuasion. Take thy stand, then, upon the summit of the temple, that from that elevated spot thou mayest be clearly seen, and thy words may be plainly audible to all the people. For, in order to attend the Passover, all the tribes have congregated hither, and some of the Gentiles also.’

To the scribes' and Pharisees' dismay, James boldly testified that Christ ‘Himself sitteth in heaven, at the right hand of the Great Power, and shall come on the clouds of heaven.’ The scribes and Pharisees then said to themselves, ‘We have not done well in procuring this testimony to Jesus. But let us go up and throw him down, that they may be afraid, and not believe him.’

Accordingly, the scribes and Pharisees “threw down the just man... [and] began to stone him: for he was not killed by the fall… but one among them, one of the fullers, took the staff with which he was accustomed to wring out the garments he dyed, and hurled it at the head of the just man.

And so he suffered martyrdom; and they buried him on the spot, and the pillar erected to his memory still remains, close by the temple. This man was a true witness to both Jews and Greeks that Jesus is the Christ.

-- Eusebius, History of the Church, “Fragments from the Acts of the Church; Concerning the Martyrdom of James, the Brother of the Lord” from Book 5

On the Grandsons of Jude:
“There still survived of the kindred of the Lord the grandsons of Judas, who according to the flesh was called his brother. These were informed against, as belonging to the family of David, and Evocatus (Roman guard) brought them before Domitian Caesar: for that emperor dreaded the advent of Christ, as Herod had done.

So he asked them whether they were of the family of David; and they confessed they were. Next he asked them what property they had, or how much money they possessed. They both replied that they had only 9000 denaria between them, each of them owning half that sum; but even this they said they did not possess in cash, but as the estimated value of some land, consisting of thirty-nine plethra only, out of which they had to pay the dues, and that they supported themselves by their own labour. And then they began to hold out their hands, exhibiting, as proof of their manual labour, the roughness of their skin, and the corns raised on their hands by constant work.

Being then asked concerning Christ and His kingdom, what was its nature, and when and where it was to appear, they returned answer that it was not of this world, nor of the earth, but belonging to the sphere of heaven and angels, and would make its appearance at the end of time, when He shall come in glory, and judge living and dead, and render to every one according to the course of his life.

Thereupon Domitian passed no condemnation upon them, but treated them with contempt, as too mean for notice, and let them go free. At the same time he issued a command, and put a stop to the persecution against the Church.

When they were released they became leaders of the churches, as was natural in the case of those who were at once martyrs and of the kindred of the Lord. And, after the establishment of peace to the Church, their lives were prolonged to the reign of Trajan.”

-- Hegesippus, Commentaries (A.D. 110-180)

On the Martyrdom of Simeon, the Son of Clopas
Some of these heretics, forsooth, laid an information against Symeon the son of Clopas, as being of the family of David, and a Christian. And on these charges he suffered martyrdom when he was 120 years old, in the reign of Trajan Caesar, when Atticus was consular legate10 in Syria. And it so happened, says the same writer, that, while inquiry was then being made for those belonging to the royal tribe of the Jews, the accusers themselves were convicted of belonging to it. With show of reason could it be said that Symeon was one of those who actually saw and heard the Lord, on the ground of his great age, and also because the Scripture of the Gospels makes mention of Mary the daughter of Clopas, who, as our narrative has shown already, was his father.

He writes as follows: They came, then, and took the presidency of every church, as witnesses for Christ, and as being of the kindred of the Lord. And, after profound peace had been established in every church, they remained down to the reign of Trajan Caesar: that is, until the time when he who was sprung from an uncle of the Lord, the aforementioned Symeon son of Clopas, was informed against by the various heresies, and subjected to an accusation like the rest, and for the same cause, before the legate Atticus; and, while suffering outrage during many days, he bore testimony for Christ: so that all, including the legate himself, were astonished above measure that a man 120 years old should have been able to endure such torments. He was finally condemned to be crucified.

  ... Up to that period the Church had remained like a virgin pure and uncorrupted: for, if there were any persons who were disposed to tamper with the wholesome rule of the preaching of salvation,11 they still lurked in some dark place of concealment or other. But, when the sacred band of apostles had in various ways closed their lives, and that generation of men to whom it had been vouchsafed to listen to the Godlike Wisdom with their own ears had passed away, then did the confederacy of godless error take its rise through the treachery of false teachers, who, seeing that none of the apostles any longer survived, at length attempted with bare and uplifted head to oppose the preaching of the truth by preaching ‘knowledge falsely so called.’"

--Eusebius, History of the Church, 3rd century A.D.

On the Flight to Pella:
"But the people of the church in Jerusalem had been commanded by a revelation, vouchsafed to approved men there before the war, to leave the city and to dwell in a certain town of Perea called Pella.  

The whole body, however, of the church at Jerusalem, having been commanded by a divine revelation, given to men of approved piety there before the war, removed from the city, and dwelt at a certain town beyond the Jordan, called Pella.”               

-- Eusebius, History of the Church, 3rd century A.D.
"Now this sect of Nazarenes exists in Beroea in Coele-Syria, and in Decapolis in the district of Pella, and in Kochaba of Basanitis-- called Kohoraba in Hebrew. For thence it originated after the migration from Jerusalem of all the disciples who resided at Pella, Christ having instructed them to leave Jerusalem and retire from it on account of the impending siege. It was owing to this counsel that they went away, as I have said, to reside for a while at Pella."

-- Ireneus, Against Heresies (29:7), 2nd  century A.D.

"It then happened that [Roman general besieging Jerusalem] Cestius was not conscious either how the besieged despaired of success, nor how courageous the people were for him; and so he recalled his soldiers from the place, and by despairing of any expectation of taking it, without having received any disgrace, he retired from the city, without any reason in the world."

-- Flavius Josephus, Wars, II, XIX, 6,7, A.D. 75

Later commentary on the Flight to Pella
"The Christians in Jerusalem and the surrounding towns and villages, in Judea , availed themselves of the first opportunity for eluding the Roman armies, and fled to the mountain city of Pella, in Perea, where they were preserved from the general destruction which overthrew the Jews. There was no time to spare before the final investment of the guilty city; the man on the house-top could not come down to take anything out of his house and the man in the field could not return back, to take his clothes. They must flee to the mountains in the greatest haste the moment that they saw ‘Jerusalem compassed with armies’ (Luke 21:20)."

-- Charles H. Spurgeon (1834-1892)

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