On this day: Jesus' Grandnephews

On this day we celebrate the feast of St. Hegesippus, a chronicler of early Church history.

Only a few fragments of his work survive. Eusebius, the Father of Church History, includes one of them, the story of the grandnephews of Jesus meeting the Emperor Domitian, in Book 3, Chapter 20.

Of the family of the Lord there were still living the grandchildren of Jude, who is said to have been the Lord's brother according to the flesh.

Information was given that they belonged to the family of David, and they were brought to the Emperor Domitian by the Evocatus. For Domitian feared the coming of Christ as Herod also had feared it. And he asked them if they were descendants of David, and they confessed that they were. Then he asked them how much property they had, or how much money they owned. And both of them answered that they had only nine thousand denarii, half of which belonged to each of them.

And this property did not consist of silver, but of a piece of land which contained only thirty-nine acres, and from which they raised their taxes and supported themselves by their own labor.

Then they showed their hands, exhibiting the hardness of their bodies and the callousness produced upon their hands by continuous toil as evidence of their own labor.

And when they were asked concerning Christ and his kingdom, of what sort it was and where and when it was to appear, they answered that it was not a temporal nor an earthly kingdom, but a heavenly and angelic one, which would appear at the end of the world, when he should come in glory to judge the quick and the dead, and to give unto every one according to his works.

Upon hearing this, Domitian did not pass judgment against them, but, despising them as of no account, he let them go, and by a decree put a stop to the persecution of the Church.

But when they were released they ruled the churches because they were witnesses and were also relatives of the Lord. And peace being established, they lived until the time of Trajan. These things are related by Hegesippus.

(A denarius is thought to have been a day's pay for a laborer or for a Roman soldier. The translation of "plethra" as "acres" is questionable. See, e.g., Hanson, where the plethron is said to equal .221 acres. Jesus' grandnephews may have owned only 8.6 acres. Domitian's reign was from 51 - 96. The reign of the Emperor Trajan began in 98.)

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