Biblical People
James. [Gr. Iakoµbos, from the Heb. Yaaqob, Jacob.] At least 4 persons mentioned in the NT bore this name—2 of the Twelve (a son of Zebedee and a son of Alphaeus), a brother of Jesus, and the father of Judas, one of the Twelve. One of the early leaders of the church at Jerusalem was named James, as was also the author of an epistle, though these have generally been identified with either the son of Alphaeus or with the brother of Jesus. Possibly "James the less" (Mk 15:40) may be similarly identified.

1. A son of Zebedee and a brother of John (Mt 4:21). The 2 brothers were formally called to discipleship at the time Peter and Andrew were called (Mt 4:18-22; Lk 5:10). Nothing is known of James's life or background prior to the call by the sea at the opening of Jesus' Galilean ministry. He was doubtless a Galilean by birth. That Zebedee had hired servant assistants (Mk 1:20) implies that the family possessed a superior economic status, and the fact that his brother John was known to the high priest and secured ready access to his house on the night of the betrayal (Jn 18:16) similarly implies some degree of social standing. With Peter and John, James made up the inner circle who enjoyed a more intimate association with Jesus upon numerous occasions than their fellow disciples, apparently because they understood better and entered more fully into the spirit of His mission to earth (Mk 3:17; 9:2; 13:3; 14:33). Because James is usually named first when he and his brother John are mentioned together (ch 1:19; etc.), it has been inferred that James was the elder of the 2. The occasional mention of John first (Lk 9:28) is doubtless attributable to John's greater prominence as a disciple and later as an apostle. The epithet Boanerges, interpreted as "sons of thunder," applied to both James and John by Jesus (Mk 3:17), evidently characterises them as of a naturally impetuous disposition, quick to take offence (Lk 9:54, 55) and to offend (Mk 10:41). James was present at the healing of Peter's mother-in-law, soon after the call by the sea (ch 1:29-31), and a few weeks or months afterward he was ordained one of the Twelve (ch 3:17). Later, in the Galilean ministry, he witnessed the raising of Jairus' daughter to life (ch 5:37), and was with Jesus on the mount of Transfiguration during Jesus' period of retirement from public ministry (ch 9:2-8).

On the last journey from Galilee, James and John, offended by the open hostility of a certain Samaritan village that refused hospitality to Jesus and His disciples, proposed the destruction of the village by fire and were rebuked by Jesus (Lk 9:51-56). On the way to Jerusalem, James and John incurred the displeasure of their fellow disciples by seeking positions of honour in the kingdom they supposed Jesus was soon to establish, and again suffered rebuke by Jesus (Mk 10:32, 35-45). With Peter, John, and Andrew, James was present on the Mount of Olives for the Saviour's discourse on the signs of His coming (ch 13:3, 4), and was with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night of the betrayal (ch 14:33). In addition to these instances where James is mentioned by name, he is assumed to have been present upon other occasions when the Twelve as a group are mentioned. James was the 1st of the Twelve to suffer martyrdom, being slain by Herod Agrippa I, about a.d. 44, not long before Herod's own death (Acts 12:1, 2). James thus figuratively drank the cup he and John once rashly declared themselves able to drink (Mk 10:39).

2. The son of Alphaeus, clearly identified 4 times, always as one of the Twelve (Mt 10:3; Mk 3:18; Lk 6:15; Acts 1:13). Otherwise nothing certain is known concerning him. Inasmuch as Levi, Matthew was also the son of a man named Alphaeus (Mt 9:9), it is not impossible that he and this James were brothers. Matthew (Mt 10:3) and Mark (Mk 3:18) pair this James with Lebbaeus Thaddaeus, whereas Luke (Lk 6:15; Acts 1:13), whose lists do not include a disciple by that name, pairs him with Simon the Zealot.

3. The Lord's brother, named first and thus presumably the eldest of Jesus' brothers (Mt 13:55; Mk 6:3), the others being Joses (RSV "Joseph," Mt 13:55), Simon, and Judas. Like "James the less" he had a brother named Joses (Mt 27:56: see James, 5). In Gal 1:19, Paul refers to "James the Lord's brother" as one of the "apostles" he saw in Jerusalem upon his first visit to the city 3 years after his conversion. Aside from these references, this James is not certainly mentioned elsewhere. However, it is commonly believed that he is to be identified with the prominent leader of the church at Jerusalem mentioned several times in Acts and Galatians (see James, 4). This James is doubtless included elsewhere with the "brethren of the Lord," as in Jn 7:5 and Acts 1:14. The "brethren" of the Lord appear not to have believed in Jesus as the Messiah during His earthly life and ministry (Mt 12:46, 47; Jn 7:5), but are mentioned among the believers at Pentecost 10 days after the ascension (Acts 1:14). In view of the fact that the "brethren" of the Lord are mentioned as accompanying Mary, the mother of Jesus (Mt 12:46, 47; Lk 8:19; Jn 2:12), and because they assumed the right to direct His ministry at various times (Mt 12:46, 47; Jn 7:3), it may be assumed that they were his older stepbrothers, the sons of Joseph by a previous marriage.

4. A church leader at Jerusalem. In the book of Acts (chs 12:17; 15:13; 21:18) and in 2 of Paul's epistles (1 Cor 15:7; Gal 2:9, 12) mention is made of a certain James who was a prominent leader in the church at Jerusalem, apparently head of the board of elders. He is mentioned first in this office soon after the death of James, the brother of John, c. a.d. 44 (Acts 12:2, 17). This James is next mentioned as moderator of the Jerusalem Council, c. a.d. 49, at which he summed up the arguments presented and announced the decision (ch 15:13). About a.d. 58, this James still held his pre-eminent position at Jerusalem, when Paul presented a report of his ministry among the Gentiles and delivered the Gentile gift for poor Christians at Jerusalem (Acts 21:17-20). This leader of the church is always mentioned in such a way as to make evident that both Luke and Paul considered him sufficiently well known to require no further introduction to readers. In Gal 1:19, Paul speaks of seeing "James the Lord's brother" upon the occasion of his first post-conversion visit to Jerusalem, and a few verses later (ch 2:9, 12) refers to a James as one of 3 "pillars" of the church there, without further identification, thus implying identity. James the leader at Jerusalem seems to have been a conservative Christian Jew who adhered closely to the rites of Judaism himself and who firmly believed that Jewish believers should do likewise (Acts 21:20; Gal 2:12), but who took a liberal view on such matters in so far as Gentile converts were concerned (Acts 15:13, 19). From early times, it has been generally believed that James, the leader of the Jerusalem church, was James, the brother of our Lord.

5. Author of the epistle of James, who identifies himself simply as "a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ" (ch 1:1). Many believe that he was James the Lord's brother, but there is no certain Biblical evidence either to prove or to disprove this. That the author considered it unnecessary to identify himself otherwise implies that he was well known to his intended readers, "the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad" (ch 1:1). Of other NT persons named James, only the son of Alphaeus and the Lord's brother seem to qualify. The weight of evidence may be construed as tending to favour the latter over the former.

6. The son of a certain Mary (see Mary, 5). He is described as "the less" (in years or in stature) and had a brother named Joses. He is referred to only in Mt 27:56; Mk 15:40; Lk 24:10, and there as the son of one of the Marys who attended Jesus at the cross and visited the tomb. James the brother of our Lord also had a brother named Joses (Mt 13:55), but it would seem strange for Mary the mother of Jesus to be identified at the cross as the mother of others than the Saviour Himself (cf. Jn 19:25-27). Some have identified James "the less" with the James the son of Alphaeus, but this identification remains also in the realm of doubt.

7. The father (not the "brother" as in the KJV) of Judas (not Iscariot), one of the Twelve (Lk 6:16). Unless he was the brother of Jude, author of the epistle by that name (Jude 1), he is otherwise unknown -- Seventh-day Adventist Bible Dictionary.

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