Jerusalem Nazarene Ecclesia
Organization of the Jerusalem Nazarene Ecclesia

It soon became apparent, at least by 34-35 CE, that the central church needed an organization to deal with the conflicts such as the Greek adherents to the faith and how to provide for the Greek widows, as well as how to deal with the gentiles who wished to be admitted into the church. The models used for the organization of the Nazarene Ecclesia were apparent, the Essene structure, Jesus ministerial organization (Luke 10:1), the Mosaic model (Numbers 11:16-17) and the Sanhedrin.

Drawing of the Jewish Sanhedrin (c. 1700 CE)

The political structure of the newly organized Nazarene Ecclesia the:

Apostle James (Jacob) the Just became the High Priest (Nasi), who is presented in Acts of the Apostles as a “wise interpreter of scriptures who presides over the Council and gives his rulings” (Schonfield, Hugh Joseph,The Pentecost Revolution, The Story of the Jesus Party in Israel, AD 36-66, Macdonald and Janes’s, St. Giles, 49/50 Poland Street, London, W.I., 1974, p 146)

The Apostle John became the Deputy (Sagan) as from his priestly background he could deal with doctrine and congregational organization issues and
The Apostle Peter became the Chief Officer of the Religious Court (Ab Beth-Din), or the general supervisor, the chief propagandist or evangelist (fame at Pentecost) and pastoral director.

There were elected 70 representatives called Elders, with an initial cabinet of fifteen, which included a Council of twelve with three Leaders. The Sanhedrin and the Essenes had a similar structure in which:

the High Priest was called the Nasi,
his Deputy High Priest was called the Sagan, and the
Chief Office of the Religious Court was called the Ab Beth-Din.

Yet this was also adapted closer to the model of Jesus’ ministry, in which the three leaders, Peter, James, son of Zebedee, and his brother, John were part of the Twelve. In the Nazarene Congregation, the “pillars” as Paul called them, were Peter, James (Jacob) the brother of Jesus, and John.

The Jerusalem Nazarene Leaders in the New Testament Scripture

About the age of thirty one, James the Less quickly emerged as the leader of the Jerusalem Nazarene Church. This leadership was recognized most in the writing of Paul and Luke (Acts). It was to James and to Peter that on several occasions when he would return back from a mission experience; he sought private audiences with these two Apostles.

Three times James is mentioned by Paul in his letter to the Galatians. The first (39 CE) was when he returned after three years of study and initiation in the deserts of Arabia, he stayed with Peter for fifteen days and did not see any of the other apostles except for James, the Lord’s brother (Galatians 1:17-19)

On his second visit, about 46 CE, Paul wrote,

Galatians 2:9 – “Recognizing, then, the favor thus bestowed upon me, the reputed pillars of our society, James, Cephas, and John, accepted Barnabas and myself as partners, and shook hands upon it, agreeing that we should go to the Gentiles while they went to the Jews. All they asked was that we should keep their poor in mind, which was the very thing I made it my business to do.”

Later, Paul mentions James (Galatians 2:12), when the ideological battle arose in the Nazarene Ecclesia on whether congregational membership (salvation) could be extended to those who were not circumcised (Acts 15:13). ​