As you know, St James was a disciple of Jesus Christ and one of the 12 apostles. He was the first apostle to be martyred in Jesus’ name and the only apostle whose death is recorded in the bible. Legend says that after he was put to death in Jerusalem, by the sword of Herod Agrippa, his body was brought to Spain in a stone boat with no sails, blown to the port of Jaffa in 7 days by angels. He was buried here but his tomb remained undiscovered for over 800 years. Once it was rediscovered, pilgrims started walking in ever increasing numbers from all over
Q: Welcome to Santiago, Saint James. You have just completed walking the camino Frances from Roncesvalles to this city, named after you. Were you surprised to find so many churches, cathedrals and monuments - not to mention pilgrims - honouring your name?
A: Absolutely! I couldn’t believe the legend that has grown up around my name and feel quite humbled by all this posthumous adoration. I must say that my brother and some of the other guys are really jealous! But then I had to wait about a thousand years to be recognized.
Q: What name do you prefer, Yakhov, Iakob, Iakobos, or one of the more modern versions like Jacques or James?
A: I don’t really mind what you call me. My parents called me Iakob but some people called me Yakob. I was known as Yakov Ben-Zebedee but if you prefer James, that is fine by me.
Q: Your brother was John?
A: Yes, but his given name was Yohannan Ben-Zebedee, which we shortened to Yohn. So, John is also fine.
Q: Can we talk about your parents for a while? Your father was a fisherman and your mother was the daughter of a priest?
A: My father was named Zebedee. He and his father before him, and my brother Yohn and I were fishermen. My mother died when Yohn and I were young.
Q: She was named Salome – sister of Mary?
A: Actually no, her name was not Salome – I think that was the name of the daughter of Herodias. I’m not sure where the confusion with her name started, but I know that the tax collector – Matthew – would never have made that mistake. I’m not sure who wrote the first book but it wasn’t our Matthew, he was very meticulous. My mother’s family were Zealots. My father always told her that we got our revolutionary passion and tempers from her side of the family!
Q: Is that why you two were named Boanerges?
A: You heard about that! It’s actually a loutish name in Mishnaic Hebrew! My cousin called us that because we were often impatient and aggressive. We wanted the revolution to start, to bring in a new order and sometimes we were overly eager. Anyway, we didn't really understand that he didn't intend starting a revolution to overthrow the state. He was a different kind of saviour!
Q: How do you feel about being one of the most visited Saints in Christianity with millions coming to your tomb to be saved?
A: This is a matter of linguistics and devotion rather than theology. There were no saints in the Tanakh, only Holy men and all of them were ‘saved’. Remember, Yahweh has not spoken to man directly for thousands of years – not since the time of Job. I’m sure any good reader of scripture knows that they will not get to the father through me!!
Q: Let’s talk about Spain. There has been some controversy about whether you actually evangelized in Spain, or built a church after seeing an apparition of the Virgin. Can you tell us about that?
A: Well, the year that I was supposed to have seen her in Hispania, Mary was still alive and well in Ephesus! She was living with John then. She was quite amused when that story started doing the rounds. There were no churches then anyway - we were still meeting in each other’s homes.
Q: Let me rephrase the question. Did you bring Christianity to Hispania?
A: Listen man, in my day the term "Christian" meant follower or proponent of some Messiah and was actually a derogatory term. We were called Pisciculi and we were fishers of men. "So many fishes bred in the water, and saved by one great fish," wrote Tertullian. He was a great writer - but I digress. Paul was supposed to come to Spain about 10 years after my death to teach and to start a new gentile mission in that area where they had never heard the preaching of Yeshua. I don’t think he ever did come here.
Q: You know, of course, that the reliquary in the crypt of the cathedral is supposedly contains your remains?
A: Yes – I went to have a look at it yesterday after the pilgrim’s mass. I’ve heard over the years that my head has been the main relic in at least 11 different places over the ages. My head is in the cathedral in Jerusalem. They say that my leg is in the church of St. Saturnin in Toulouse in France; that an arm was in Valencia from the year 640, and that my left hand was in Reading Abbey in Britannia. I’m not sure how many other bits are scattered about the world!
Q: What do make of the many churches and cathedrals along the way?
A: They are marvelous structures but there is something that really shocked me. The Tanack taught us that displays of statues and likenesses of Yahweh elohim is one of the ways that idolatry began. Our biggest problem in the early days was fighting idolatry. We taught that, as YHVH has no shape or form, people should not worship before ‘things of naught’.
I saw many life-like statues, even a statue of a crucified Yeshua, hanging on a cross, covered in old skin!! It is an abomination and if I could have, I would have torn it down with my bare hands! Can't they read?? Have they not read Acts? Don't they know that our Lord was hung on a tree? Excuse me for displaying frustration but all these man made likenesses appear to me as Pagan idols. They are the work of men's hands, unable to speak, see, hear, or feel, and powerless either to injure or to benefit, so it surprises me that they adorn the altars of every church. It saddens me that people bow down before them. Where did we go wrong when millions of 'believers' are climbing stairs to hug a bejeweled, metal effigy of me!!?
Q: There are numerous statues and carvings of you – as an apostle, as a pilgrim, or as Sant’Iago Matamoros,
A: I have seen them and am amused by them. The likenesses of me as an apostle and a pilgrim are acceptable, but I have never been on a horse – although I rather fancy myself as a horseman and warrior!
Q: Your likeness as Santiago Matamoros was carried over the oceans to the New World where you were instrumental in helping to conquer many people. How do you feel about that?
A: That was my likeness, not me. I am, however, amazed that our message planted such strong roots in the West. We are an Eastern religion. Our ministry began in Asia when Yeshua travelled in Lubanan, Palestine and Egypt. Our roots are from the East and were transported to the West by the passion of the apostles and disciples.
Q: What do you make of the church today with its different sects and denominations?
A: There were always different sects even in Judaism. There were the Pharisees, the Sadducees, Essenes and many others. This is the way of the world.
Q: Did you attend Mass along the way?
A: Oh yes, frequently and the priests were very capable. But what struck me as odd is that I never saw any teachers or priests on the actual paths to Santiago – why is that? Yeshua was a street preacher. He walked for miles, preaching in the streets, in the courtyards of the temples, on mountains and besides rivers and the sea. He preached as he walked from one village to the next and even though he preached in the temples from time to time he didn’t build any churches. Where are the street preachers?
Q: Are there any other observations that you would like to share with our readers?
A: Yes – there are a couple of things. You can't blame us for thinking that the Romans finally won the day! They adopted the religion, chose the most feared symbol of all Christians – the cross – as their symbol, and established the head of the church in Rome, of all places! We couldn't believe that the church didn't remain centered in the East, but that is the way of man. Why didn’t they keep the Ichthus which we all used after the great fire to identify each other? They knew this was our secret, coded name - meaning "Jesus Christ, Son of God, our Savior". At least they adopted the fish headdress of the priests of Ea as the miter of the Christian bishops.
Q: Do you know that there was a split in the Roman church that started around 1517?
A: Yes, we know all about that, and what started the split. Our message was clear in the scriptures – why mess with them - and is it not true that in the Tanakh "nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it?"
Q: The Roman Catholics, the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox and the new Anglican churches do not believe that the bible, or the Sola Scriptura, is sufficient as the final authority of Christian doctrine. They believe both the Bible and Roman Catholic tradition are equally binding. What would you say about these two different schools of thought?
A: I am tempted to say “no comment” but I won’t. All I will say is that from the time of Constantine until now, the people who belong to the Christian churches have evolved, grown, changed and are still learning. For instance, the witch hunts ended, they no longer slaughter people (as they did in South America) in the name of God. But, they are still not at peace. Why? Do you remember Agnes – you probably knew her as Mother Teresa? She said, “If you want peace, go talk with your enemies, you don't make peace with friends”.
Q: I think we have time for one last question. May we ask where you will be going from here - back ‘home’ or to do more evangelizing?
A: I was never very good at evangelizing!
I am going to be travelling to Oviedo first to have a look at the Sudarium - remember John spoke of it - and a few other relics. I can't believe that they escaped the Perisans and made it out of Palestine safely. Then I am going to India to do some fishing with my good friend Tenzin Gyatso.
Q: Thank you very much for speaking to us Saint James. I know that you have a busy schedule here in Santiago and wish you God-speed to Oviedo and to India. Before you leave, do you have a message for the many pilgrims who walk long distances to your shrine?
A: The early church was a pilar of fire. This might surprise you but I would like to share a verse written by my friend Besht who was a great scholar and mystic who said, “When you walk across the fields with your mind pure, then from all the stones and all growing things, and all animals, the sparks of their soul come out and cling to you and become a holy fire in you”.