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Bible Dictionaries

Fausset's Bible Dictionary

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James, the General Epistle of
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"Jacob" in Greek; the name appearing in our Lord's apostles and contemporaries for the first time since the patriarch. Son of Zebedee, brother of John. Their father's "hired servants" and fishing vessel imply some degree of competence. John probably was the one with Andrew (John 1:35-41), who, on John the Baptist's pointing to the Lamb of God, followed Jesus. The words Andrew "first findeth his own brother Simon" imply that John secondly found and called his own brother James to Jesus, or vice versa. Some months later the Lord saw Zebedee, James, and John, in the ship mending their nets. At His call James and John "immediately left the ship and their father and followed Him" (Matthew 4:22). Their LEAVING THEIR FATHER "WITH THE HIRED servants" (Mark 1:20, a minute particular, characteristic of Mark' s vivid style and his knowledge through Peter of all which happened) was not an unfilial act, which it would have been if he had no helpers.

The next call was after an unsuccessful night's fishing, when the fishermen had gone out of their ships and had washed (Luke 5:2, Vaticanus and Cambridge manuscripts read eplunon , "were washing"; the Sinaiticus and Paris manuscripts have epifainoo ) their nets; Jesus entering one of the ships, Simon's, prayed him to thrust out a little from land, and preached. Then rewarding his loan of the ship, He desired Simon, Launch out into the deep, and do ye let down your nets for a draught. At Christ's word, however unlikely to reason, he let down, and enclosed so many fish that the net broke; and the partners in the other ship came to his help, and they filled both ships so that they began to sink. Astonished at the miracle, yet encouraged by His further promise to Simon, "henceforth thou shalt catch men," the three forsook not merely their "nets" as before, but "all," and followed Him. In fact the successive calls were:

(1) to friendly acquaintance (John 1:37);

(2) to intimacy (Matthew 4:18);

(3) to permanent discipleship (Luke 5:11);

(4) (toward the close of the first year of our Lord's ministry) to apostleship (Matthew 10:1);

(5) to renewed self dedication, even unto death (John 21:15-22).

In Matthew and Luke (Luke 6:14), of the four catalogs of apostles, Andrew follows Peter on the ground of brotherhood. (See APOSTLES.) In Mark (Mark 3:16) and Acts (Acts 1:13) James and John precede Andrew on the ground of greater nearness to Jesus. These four head the twelve; and Andrew is at the foot of the four. Peter, James, and John alone witnessed the raising of Jairus' daughter (Mark 5:37); also the transfiguration (Matthew 17:1); also the agony (Matthew 26:37). The four asked our Lord "privately" when His prediction of the temple's overthrow should be fulfilled, and what should be the sign (Mark 13:3). In Luke 9:28 (the transfiguration) alone John precedes James. By the time that Luke wrote John was recognized as on a level with James, yet not above him, as Luke in Acts 1:13 has the order, "James, John," but in Acts 12:2 Luke calls James brother of John, who by that time had become the more prominent.

James was probably the elder brother, whence John is twice called "brother of James" (Mark 5:37; Matthew 17:1). No official superiority was given, for no trace of it occurs in New Testament; it was the tacitly recognized leadership which some took above the others. James and John were called Boanerges to express their natural character and the grace which would purify and ennoble it, making James the first apostle martyr and John the apostle of love. (See BOANERGES.) Their fiery zeal in its untempered state appeared in their desiring to call fire from heaven to consume the Samaritans. These would not receive Jesus when He sent messengers to make ready for Him (i.e. to announce His Messiahship, which He did not conceal in Samaria as in Judaea and Galilee: John 4:26; Luke 9:54), because His face was as though He would go to Jerusalem, whereas they expected the Messiah would confirm their anti-Jewish worship in the mount Gerizim temple.

James and John "saw" some actual collision between the Samaritans and the messengers who were sent before and whom our Lord and His apostles followed presently; just as Elijah in the same Samaria had called for fire upon the offenders face to face (2 Kings 1:10; 2 Kings 1:12). In Luke 9:55-56, "ye know not what manner of spirit ye are (not the fiery judicial spirit which befitted Elijah's times, but the spirit of love so as to win men to salvation, is the spirit of Me and Mine), for the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives but to save them," is not in Alex., Vat., and. Sin. manuscripts The same John subsequently (Acts 8:14-17) came down with Peter to confer the Spirit's gifts on Samaritan believers. What miracles in renewing the heart does the gospel work! Salome the mother of Zebedee's children, impressed by Christ's promise that the twelve should sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel, begged, and her two sons joined in the prayer, that they might sit one on His right the other on His left hand in His glory (Mark 10:35-37).

They prefaced it with pleading His own promise, "Master, we would that Thou shouldest do for us whatsoever we shall desire" (Matthew 7:7; Luke 11:9; Mark 11:24). Perhaps jealousy of Peter and Andrew, their rivals for the nearest place to Him, actuated them (Matthew 20:20-24). He told them that they should drink of His cup (Sin. and Vat. manuscripts omit in Matthew 20:22-23 the clause as to the "baptism") of suffering (Acts 12:1-2; James; Revelation 1:9; John), but to sit on His right and left, said He, "is not Mine to give, except to those for whom it is prepared of My Father" (so the Greek). The ten were indignant at the claim. James was among those who abode in the upper room and persevered in prayer; the apostles, the women, and the Lord's brethren, after the ascension (Acts 1:13). In A. D. 44 Herod Agrippa I, a pliant politician but strict Jew, "very ambitious to oblige the people, exactly careful in the observance of the laws. and not allowing one day to pass without its appointed sacrifice" (Josephus, Ant. 19:7, section 3), in consonance with his well known character, "laid hands (Greek) on certain of the church."

The Passover had brought James and Peter to Jerusalem (Acts 12:1-3). So he took the opportunity just before the Passover to kill the most fiery of the two first, namely, "James the brother of John." "The sword" was the instrument of his execution, Herod preferring the Roman method to the Jewish punishment of seducers to strange worship, namely, stoning. Clement of Alexandria (Hypotyposeis, 7; Eusebius, H. E., 2:6) records a tradition that James's prosecutor was moved by his bold confession to declare himself a Christian on the spot; he begged James's forgiveness, and the apostle kissed him, saying "peace be to thee"; they were both beheaded together. A Roman Catholic legend says that he preached in Spain, and that his remains were transported to Compostella there!

James, surnamed "the Less" or "Little." Son of Mary (Mark 15:40; Matthew 27:56; Luke 24:10). Brother of Jude (Judges 1:1; Luke 6:16; Acts 1:13). "The brother of the Lord" (Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3; Galatians 1:19). "Son of Alphaeus" (Matthew 10:3; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:15; Acts 1:13). Writer of the epistle; president of the church at Jerusalem (James 1:1; Acts 12:17; Acts 15:13; Acts 15:19; Galatians 2:9; Galatians 2:12). Clopas (Alexandrinus and Vaticanus manuscripts, John 19:25) or Cleophas (Sinaiticus manuscript) is the Hebrew, Alphaeus the Greek, of the same name: he married Mary, sister of the Virgin Mary, and had by her James, Joses, Jude, and Simon, and three daughters (Mary is sometimes designated "mother of James and Joses," Matthew 27:56, as these were the two oldest); he died before our Lord's ministry began, and his widow went to live with her sister the Virgin Mary, a widow also herself (for Joseph's name never occurs after Luke 2), at Nazareth (Matthew 13:55), Capernaum (John 2:12), and Jerusalem (Acts 1:14).

Living together the cousins were regarded as "brothers" and "sisters" of Jesus. Being His elders, they went on one occasion to "lay hold on Him," saying that He was "beside Himself"; as He was so pressed by multitudes that He and His disciples "could not so much as eat bread," His cousin brethren thought they would restrain what seemed to them mad zeal (Mark 3:20-21; Mark 3:31-33). The statement in John 7:3-5, "neither did His brethren believe in Him," does not imply that all of them disbelieved; James and Jude believed. Or if all are included, the negation of belief is not a negation of all belief, but of such as recognized the true nature of His Messiahship. They looked for a reigning Messiah, and thought Jesus' miracles were wrought with a view to this end: "depart hence (from obscure Galilee) and go into Judea, that Thy disciples also may see the works that Thou doest, for there is no man that doeth anything in secret and (yet) he himself seeketh to be known openly (which they take for granted He seeks); if Thou do these things, show Thyself to the world."

The theory that denies any of the Lord's brethren to have place among the apostles involves the improbability that there were two sets of four first cousins, named James, Joses, Jude, Simon, without anything to show which is son of Clopas and which his cousin. Luke in enumerating the twelve calls Jude: "the brother of James," he must mean brother of the "James, son of Alphaeus," before mentioned. Jude appears in Mark 6:3; Matthew 13:55, as "brother of the Lord"; therefore James the son of Alphaeus must have been" brother," i.e. cousin, of our Lord. This proves the identity of Juntos the apostle with James the Lord's brother. Luke moreover recognizes only two Jameses in the Gospel and Acts down to Acts 12:17; the James there must then mean the son of Alphaeus. An apostle is more likely to have presided over the Jerusalem church, wherein he is placed even before Cephas and John, than one who was an unbeliever until after the resurrection (Galatians 1:19; Galatians 2:9-12); compare Acts 9:27, which calls those to whom Paul went "apostles"; now Peter and James were those to whom he went, therefore James was an apostle.

After the resurrection Christ appeared to James (1 Corinthians 15:7). The spurious " Gospel according to the Hebrew" says "James swore he would not eat bread from the hour that he drank the cup of the Lord until he should see Him risen again." Christ's special appearance to James strengthened him for the high position, tantamount to "bishop," which he subsequently held at Jerusalem. Christ's command to the collected apostles to preach the gospel everywhere is compatible with each having a special sphere besides the general care of the churches. To him and Peter Barnabas, A.D. 40, introduced Saul, three years subsequently to his conversion in A.D. 37 on his first visit to Jerusalem, and through their influence he was admitted to free intercourse with the disciples, who at first had been "all afraid of him, not believing he was a disciple" (Acts 9:26-28; Galatians 1:18-19).

When Peter was delivered by the angel, A.D. 44. he said to the assembly at Mary's house "Go show these things unto James" (Acts 12:17). In A.D. 49 at the Jerusalem council James gives authoritative opinion, "My sentence is" (Acts 15:13; Acts 15:19). At the same time Paul recognizes as "pillars of the church" "James, Cephas and John" (James standing first): Galatians 2:9. It was "certain who came from James," president of the mother church of Jerusalem, who led Peter to his Judaizing vacillation at Antioch (Galatians 2:11-12). Finally in A.D. 57 Paul, having been on the previous day "received gladly" by the brethren, went in officially, with Luke and his other assistant ministers, in the presence of all the elders, and "declared particularly what God had wrought among the Gentiles by his ministry" (Acts 21:17-19).

Besides Clement of Alexandria who speaks of his episcopate (Hypot. 6, in Eusebius H. E., 2:1), Hegesippus, a Jewish Christian in the middle of the second century, writes much of James, that he drank not strong drink, nor had a razor upon his head, and wore no woolen clothes, but linen, so that he alone might go into the holy place; in short he was a rigid Nazarite ascetic, following after legal righteousness, so that the Jews regarded him as possessing priestly sanctity; such a one when converted to Christ was likely to have most influence with the Jews, who called him "the just one," and therefore to have been especially suited to preside over the Jerusalem church. So we find him recommending to Paul a conformity to legal ceremonialism in things indifferent (Acts 21:18-25), which however proved in the end really inexpedient. Hegesippus says James was often in the temple praying for forgiveness for the people.

At the Passover shortly before the destruction of Jerusalem (foretold in his epistle, James 5:1) the scribes and Pharisees set him on a pinnacle of the temple, and begged him to restrain the people who were "going astray after Jesus as though He were the Christ." "Tell us, O just one," said they before the assembled people, "which is the door of Jesus?" alluding to his prophecy "the coming of the Lord draweth nigh ... behold the Judge standeth before the doors" (Greek, James 5:8-9), wherein he repeats Jesus' words (Matthew 24:33), "when ye shall see all these things, know that He (margin) is near, even at the doors." James replied with a loud voice, "Why ask ye me concerning Jesus, the Son of Man? He sitteth at the right hand of power, and will come again on the clouds of heaven." Many cried "Hosanna to the Son of David."

But James was cast down by the Pharisees. Praying, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do," he was stoned in spite of the remonstrance of a Rechabite priest ("Stop! the just one is praying for you!"), then beaten to death with a fuller's club. Thus the Jews wreaked their vengeance on him, exasperated at his prophecy of their national doom in his epistle, which was circulated not only in Jerusalem but by those who came up to the great feasts, among "the twelve tribes scattered abroad" to whom it is addressed. James was probably married (1 Corinthians 9:5). Josephus makes Ananus, the high priest after Festus' death, to have brought J. before the Sanhedrin for having broken the laws, and to have delivered him and some others to be stoned.

In Hebrews 13:7 there may be allusion to James' martyrdom, "Remember them which had (not have) the rule (spiritually) over you, (Hebrew, over whom he presided) who have spoken unto you the word of God, whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation" (their life walk). If this be the allusion, the Epistle to Hebrew was probably A.D. 68, and James's martyrdom A.D. 62. His apprehension by Ananus was very probably in this year; but according to Hegesippus he was not martyred until just before the destruction of Jerusalem, A.D. 69, to which, as near, Hebrews 5:1 may refer.

Bibliography Information
Fausset, Andrew R. Entry for 'James'. Fausset's Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​fbd/​j/james.html. 1949.
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