Jacobites are needed

Do people still join postal “book clubs?” Do you remember the sort of thing? As an introductory offer, you could have four books for a nominal sum and then were obliged to buy a book a month for the next year.

Starting secondary school in 1972, I was allowed to sign up for something called the History Guild. I can still remember three of the books I chose for the introductory offer, a dictionary of British history and histories of the First and Second World Wars by Liddell Hart. In the year that followed, one book remains firmly in the memory, Culloden by John Prebble.

To a twelve year old, it seemed a mystery why the rebellion led by Charles Stuart was called a “Jacobite Rising.” Why was Bonnie Prince Charlie a Jacobite? No-one explained.

It would be a decade later, when studying New Testament Greek, that the schoolboy’s question found an answer. James in Greek was Iakobus, thus those who maintained that King James II and his Stuart successors were the rightful monarchs were Jacobites.

There were at least three James in the New Testament, the most prominent being James the son of Zebedee and brother of John, the writer of the Fourth Gospel.

James’ brother John must have become a much more eirenic figure in his latter years for his account of the life of Jesus has nothing to suggest that would have deserved him and his brother being described as “sons of thunder.”

Perhaps James, who is remembered by the church on 25th July, also changed. The James encountered in the Gospels would have been closer to someone who would have joined in the armed rebellions of the Jacobites of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries than to the philosopher and theologian his brother became.

When the group were not welcomed in a Samaritan village, Saint Luke writes, “When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” Jesus rebukes them. He also rebukes them when they ask to sit on his right and left hand in heaven.

It is appropriate that the Galilean fisherman who was son of Zebedee and brother of John lent his name to a troublesome and rebellious tradition. A son of thunder, James is an unreasonable person, a discontent person. James wants more.

A schoolboy reading about Jacobites might have identified with Iakobus.

 

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