Way of Essenic Studies
The Desposyni (from Greek (desposunos) meaning "of or belonging to the master or lord" was a sacred name reserved for Jesus' blood relatives.
The closely related word (despotes) meaning lord, master, or ship owner is commonly used of God, human slave-masters, and of Jesus in the reading Luke 13:25 found in Papyrus 75, in Jude 1:4, and possibly in 2nd Peter 2:1.
In Ebionite belief, the desposyni included his mother Mary, his father Joseph, his unnamed sisters, and his brothers James the Just, Joses, Simon and Jude; in modern mainstream Christian belief, Mary is counted as a blood relative, Joseph only as a foster father and the rest as half brothers or cousins.
If Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene, a controversial belief which was held by the Gnostic sects, and which is indirectly corroborated by the apocryphal Gospel of Philip, their child or children would have been the most revered among the desposyni.
According to author Malachi Martin, every early community of Judean followers of Jesus, whether it was Nazarene or Ebionite, was governed by a desposynos as a patriarch, and each of them carried one of the names traditional in Jesus' family but no one was ever named after him.
As some asserted their descent from both king David and the high priest Aaron, all male desposyni could have laid claim to both the throne and the office of high priest of Jerusalem.
However, the Roman occupation of Palestine, with the collaboration of the Judean establishment, made any attempt by a desposynos to rise to or seize political and religious power impossible or limited in scope.
Hegesippus (c.110-c.180) wrote five books of Commentaries on the Acts of the Church. They are now lost, but a few fragments are quoted by Eusebius in Historia Ecclesiae, 3.20. Among them is the following relation, ascribed to the reign of Domitian (81-96):
"...There still survived of the kindred of the Lord the grandsons of Judas, who according to the flesh was called his brother. These were informed against, as belonging to the family of David, and Evocatus brought them before Domitian Caesar: for that emperor dreaded the advent of Christ, as Herod had done."
So he asked them whether they were of the family of David; and they confessed they were. Next he asked them what property they had, or how much money they possessed. They both replied that they had only 9000 denaria between them, each of them owning half that sum; but even this they said they did not possess in cash, but as the estimated value of some land, consisting of thirty-nine plethra only, out of which they had to pay the dues, and that they supported themselves by their own labour. And then they began to hold out their hands, exhibiting, as proof of their manual labour, the roughness of their skin, and the corns raised on their hands by constant work."
Being then asked concerning Christ and His kingdom, what was its nature, and when and where it was to appear, they returned answer that it was not of this world, nor of the earth, but belonging to the sphere of heaven and angels, and would make its appearance at the end of time, when He shall come in glory, and judge living and dead, and render to every one according to the course of his life."
Thereupon Domitian passed no condemnation upon them, but treated them with contempt, as too mean for notice, and let them go free. At the same time he issued a command, and put a stop to the persecution against the Church."
When they were released they became leaders of the churches, as was natural in the case of those who were at once martyrs and of the kindred of the Lord. And, after the establishment of peace to the Church, their lives were prolonged to the reign of Trajan."
In "The Ecclesiastical History", Eusebius records an account by Julianus Africanus recorded the following concerning the family:
"...For the relatives of our Lord according to the flesh, whether with the desire of boasting or simply wishing to state the fact, in either case truly, have banded down the following account...But as there had been kept in the archives up to that time the genealogies of the Hebrews as well as of those who traced their lineage back to proselytes, such as Achior the Ammonite and Ruth the Moabitess, and to those who were mingled with the Israelites and came out of Egypt with them, Herod, inasmuch as the lineage of the Israelites contributed nothing to his advantage, and since he was goaded with the consciousness of his own ignoble extraction, burned all the genealogical records, thinking that he might appear of noble origin if no one else were able, from the public registers, to trace back his lineage to the patriarchs or proselytes and to those mingled with them, who were called Georae."
"...A few of the careful, however, having obtained private records of their own, either by remembering the names or by getting them in some other way from the registers, pride themselves on preserving the memory of their noble extraction. Among these are those already mentioned, called Desposyni, on account of their connection with the family of the Saviour.
Coming from Nazara and Cochaba, villages of Judea, into other parts of the world, they drew the aforesaid genealogy from memory and from the book of daily records as faithfully as possible. [Eusebius, History Section 1, Chapter 7]
The Desposyni and the Pope
The controversial Irish priest Malachi Martin noted in "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Church" that:
"...A meeting between Sylvester (Pope Silvester I) and the Jewish Christian leaders took place in 318....The vital interview was not, as far as we know, recorded, but the issues were very well known, and it is probable the Joses, the oldest of the Christian Jews, spoke on behalf of the desposyni and the rest."
"...That most hallowed name, desposyni, had been respected by all believers in the first century and a half of Christian history. The word literally meant, in Greek, "belonging to the Lord." It was reserved uniquely for Jesus' blood relatives. Every part of the ancient Jewish Christian church had always been governed by a desposynos, and each of them carried one of the names traditional in Jesus' family---Zachary, Joseph, John, James, Joses, Simeon, Matthias, and so on. But no one was ever called Jesus.
Neither Sylvester nor any of the thirty-two popes before him, nor those succeeding him, ever emphasized that there were at least three well-known and authentic lines of legitimate blood descent from Jesus' own family..."
"...The Desposyni demanded that Sylvester, who now had Roman patronage, revoke his confirmation of the authority of the Greek Christian bishops at Jerusalem, in Antioch, in Ephesus, and in Alexandria, and to name desposynos bishops to take their place. They asked that the practice of sending cash to Jerusalem as the mother church be resumed...
These blood relatives of Christ demanded the reintroduction of the Law, which included the Sabbath and the Holy Day system of Feasts and New Moons of the Bible. Sylvester dismissed their claims and said that, from now on, the mother church was in Rome and he insisted they accept the Greek bishops to lead them."
"...This was the last known dialogue with the Sabbath-keeping church in the east led by the disciples who were descended from blood relatives of Jesus the Messiah."
Other known relatives of Jesus include Simeon, the second bishop of Jerusalem, who was the son of Joseph's brother Clopas (mentioned by Eusebius, H.E. 3.11,32), and three Nestorian bishops of Seleucia on the Tigris in the 3rd century according to the 13th-century Syrian historian, Gregory Barhebraeus.
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