Fragments of Hegesippus the Historian

Prologue

The following fragments are taken from his Five Books of Commentaries on the Acts of the Assembly, of which only a few excerpts have preserved in the chronicles of the early church historian, Eusebius of Caesarea. These excerpts are not presented in the order which Eusebius gives them, but rather, are presented in an order which seems to best reflect the order in which Hegesippus originally wrote them.

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Fragment One 1

1 James, the brother of the Lord, succeeded to the government of the Assembly, in conjunction with the Apostles. 2 He has been universally called “the Just,” 2 from the days of the Lord down to the present time. Many have borne the name of James, but this one was holy from his mother’s womb. 3 He drank no wine or other intoxicating liquor, nor did he eat flesh, and no razor came upon his head. 3 4 He did not anoint himself with oil, nor did he make use of the bath. He alone was permitted to enter the holy place; for he did not wear any wool garment, but fine linen only. 4

5 He was prone to go into the temple, and he used to be found kneeling on his knees, begging forgiveness for the people– 6 so much so, that the skin of his knees became rough like that of a camel’s, because of his constant bending the knee in adoration to God, and begging for the people to be forgiven. 7 Therefore, because of his exceedingly great justice, he was called “the Just”, and “Oblias,” 5 which signifies in Greek “Defense of the People,” and “Justice,” in accordance with what the Prophets declare concerning him.

8 Now some people, belonging to the seven sects existing among the people, which have been before described by me in the Memiors, 6 asked him, 9 “What is the Door of Yeshua?”

And James replied, “He is the Savior.”

10 As a result of his answer, some believed that Yeshua is the Messiah. But the sects mentioned before did not believe in either a resurrection or in the coming of One to require of every man according to his works. 11 But as many who did believe, believed because of James. So, when many even of the ruling class believed, there was a commotion among the Jews, and scribes, and Pharisees, who said, 12 “A little more, and we will have all the people looking for Yeshua as the Messiah.”

13 They came by group to James, and said, “We beseech you to restrain the people! They have gone astray in their opinions about Yeshua, as if He actually were the Messiah! 14 We beseech you to persuade all who have come here for the Day of Passover, concerning Yeshua. 15 We all listen to your persuasion, since we, as well as the rest of the people, bear testimony that you are just, and that you do not show partiality to anyone. 16 You must, therefore, persuade the people not to entertain these erroneous opinions concerning Yeshua, for all the people, and we also, listen to your opinion! 17 Take your stand upon the pinnacle of the temple, so that from the high position you will be clearly seen, 18 and your words will be plainly heard by all people; for, in order to attend the Passover, all the tribes have congregated here, and some from among the nations also.”

19 These previously mentioned Scribes and Pharisees, accordingly, set James on the pinnacle of the temple, and cried aloud to him, 20 “O Just one, whom we are all bound to obey! As the people are in error, and follow Yeshua, the crucified, answer us this question: what is the door of Yeshua?”

21 James answered with a loud voice, “Why do you ask me about Yeshua, the Son of Man? He Himself sits in heaven, at the right hand of the Great Power, 7 and will come on the clouds of heaven.”

22 Many were fully convinced by these words, and offered praise for the testimony of James, and said, “Hosanna to the Son of David!”

23 Again the Pharisees and scribes said to one another, “We have not done well in procuring this testimony to Yeshua. Let us go up and throw him down, that they may be afraid, and not believe him!” 24 They cried aloud, and said, “Alas– the just one is in error!” In saying this, they fulfilled the Scripture written in Isaiah, 25 “Let us do away with the just man, because he is troublesome to us. They will therefore eat the fruit of their doings.” 8 26 So they went up and threw down the just man, and said to one another, “Let us stone James the Just!” And they began to stone him, for he was not killed by the fall.

27 But he turned, and knelt down, and said, “I beseech You, Lord God our Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they do.”

28 While they were stoning him to death, one of the priests, the sons of Rechab, the son of Rechabim, of whom a testimony is borne by Jeremiah the Prophet, 9 began to cry out loud, 29 “Stop what you are doing! The just one is praying for us.”

30 But one among them, one of the fullers 10 took his staff, which he used to wring out dyed garments, and hurled it at the head of the just man.

31 Thus he suffered martyrdom, and was buried on the spot. A pillar was erected to his memory, and it still remains close by the temple. 32 This man became a true witness to both Jews and Greeks that Yeshua is the Messiah.

33 Shortly after this, Vespasian besieged Judaea, taking them captive.

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Fragment Two 11

1 The Assembly of Corinth continued in the true faith up to the time when Primus was overseer in Corinth. I had several discussion with the brethren there on my voyage to Rome, 2 and spent several days with the Corinthians, during which we were mutually refreshed by the true faith.

3 On my arrival at Rome, I drew up a list of the succession of overseers down to Anicetus, whose servant was Eleutherus. Soter succeeded Anicetus, and after him came Eleutherus. 4 But in the case of every succession, and in every city, the state of affairs was in accordance with the teaching of the Torah, of the Prophets, and of the Lord.

5 After James the Just had suffered martyrdom, as had the Lord also and on the same account, again Symeon the son of Clopas, descended from the Lord’s uncle, 6 was made overseer, his election being promoted by all as being a kinsman of the Lord.

7 During this time the Assembly was called a virgin, for she was not as yet corrupted by worthless teaching. 8 It was Thebulis who, displeased because he was not made overseer, first began to corrupt her by stealth. 9 He, too, was connected with the seven sects which existed among the people: 12

10 Simon, from whom come the Simoniani;
Cleobius, from whom come the Cleobiani;
Doritheus, from whom come the Dorithiani;
11 Gorthaeus, from whom come the Gortheani;
and Masbothaeus, from whom come the Masbothaei.

12 From these men also come: the Menandrianists, the Marcionists, the Carpocratians, the Valentinians, the Basilidians, and the Saturnilians.

13 Each of these leaders, in his own private and distinct capacity, brought in his own private opinion. From these have come false Messiahs, false Prophets, and false Apostles. 14 These men have split up the one Assembly into factions, through their corrupting doctrines, uttered against God and His Messiah.

15 There were, moreover, various opinions in the circumcision among the children of Israel, held by those who were opposed to the tribe of Judah and to the Messiah. 16 These are: the Essenes, the Galileans, the Hemerobaptists, the Masbothaei, the Samaritans, the Sadducees, and the Pharisees.

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Fragment Three 13

1 Of the family of the Lord, there still survived the grandsons of Jude– 14 who, in the flesh, was His brother. They were informed against, that they belonging to the family of David; 2 and Evocatus brought them before Domitian Caesar, for that emperor dreaded the advent of the Messiah, just as Herod had.

3 So he asked them whether they were of the family of David, and they confessed they were. 4 Next he asked them what property they had, or how much money they possessed, and they both replied that they had only nine thousand denaria between them, each of them owning half that sum; 5 but even this, they said, they did not possess in hand, but it was the estimated value of some land, some thirty-nine acres, from which they had to pay the dues, and that they used to support themselves by their own labor. 6 Then they began to hold out their hands, exhibiting the roughness of their skin as proof of their manual labor, and the corns on their hands raised by their constant work.

7 Being asked about the Messiah and His Kingdom, what was its nature, and when and where it was to appear, they answered that it was not of this world, nor was it of the earth, 8 but that it belonged to the realm of heaven and the angels, and that it would make its appearance at the end of the world, 9 when He was to come in glory, and judge living and dead, and render to everyone according to the course of his life.

10 Upon hearing this, Domitian passed no condemnation upon them, but treated them with contempt, as something too trivial to waste his time, and let them go free. 11 At the same time he issued a command, and put a stop to the persecution against the Assembly.

12 When they were released, they became leaders of the Assemblies, as was natural in the case of those who were martyrs and relatives of the Lord. 13 And, after the establishment of peace to the Assembly, their lives were prolonged until the reign of Trajan.

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Fragment Four 15

1 Some of these heretics brought an accusation against Symeon, the son of Cleopas, as being of the family of David, and a Christian. 2 On these charges he suffered martyrdom when he was a hundred and twenty years old, during the reign of Trajan Caesar, when Atticus was governor in Syria. 3 And while a search was being made for the descendants of David, the accusers themselves were also convicted of belonging to that family.

4 It might be reasonably assumed that Symeon was one of those who actually saw and heard the Lord, on the ground of his great age, 5 and also because the Besorah mentions Mary of Cleopas, 16 who, as our narrative has shown already, was his father.

6 There are others also, descended from the family of one believed to have been one of the brothers of the Savior, named Jude, 7 as having survived until this same reign, after the testimony they bore for the faith of the Messiah in the time of Domitian, as already recorded.

8 They came, then, and took the lead in every Assembly, as witnesses for the Messiah, and as being relatives of the Lord. 9 After profound peace had been established in every Assembly, they remained down to the reign of Trojan Caesar, 10 until the time when he who was sprung from an uncle of the Lord, the previously mentioned Symeon son of Clopas, was informed against by the various heresies. 11 He was subjected to an accusation like the rest, and for the same cause, before the governor Atticus. 12 While suffering for many days, he bore testimony of the Messiah, so that all, including the governor himself, were astonished beyond measure that a man one hundred and twenty years old should have been able to endure such torments; 13 and he was finally condemned to be crucified.

14 Up to that period, the Assembly had remained like a virgin, pure and uncorrupted; for, if there were any who attempted to corrupt the wholesome rule of the preaching of salvation, they lurked in dark places of concealment. 15 But when the sacred band of Apostles had closed their lives, in various ways, 16 and when the generation of men that had been entrusted to hear to the Godlike Wisdom with their own ears had passed away, 17 then the league of Godless error took its rise through the treachery of false teachers. 18 They then, seeing that none of the Apostles lived any longer, attempted with bare and uplifted head to oppose the preaching of the truth by preaching “knowledge falsely so called.” 17

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Footnotes

1 From Eusebius’ Ecclesiastic History 2.23.

2 “Ha Tzadik” in Hebrew, meaning “the righteous.”

3 The Nazarite vow, as outlined in Numbers 6:1-21.

4 He had worn priestly apparel.

5 The Hebrew term “Ophel” was most likely the original used here. It was used in 2 Chronicles 27:3, along with Nehemiah 3:26 and 11:21, to indicate “a ridge of hills in Jerusalem, fortified for defense of the city.”

6 These seven sects are listed later by Hegesippus in Fragment 2:15-16.

7 In Hebraic literature, the word “Elohim” can be translated “God,” “authority,” or “power.”

8 Isaiah 3:10.

9 Possibly Jeremiah 29:12.

10 One who cleans and thickens freshly woven cloth, especially wool.

11 From Eusebius, Ecclesiastic History 4.22.

12 A detailed account of the beliefs of many of these sects were detailed by Epiphanius in his late 4th century work, the Panarion.

13 From Eusebius, Ecclesiastic History 3.20.

14 The probable author of the Letter of Jude.

15 From Eusebius, Ecclesiastic History 3.32.

16 John 19:25.

17 1 Timothy 6:20.

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See Also

  • Introduction to Hegesippus the Historian

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