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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible

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James, Epistle of
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1. James, the son of Zehedee , one of the Twelve, the elder brother of John. Their father was a Galilæan fisherman, evidently in a thriving way, since he employed ‘hired servants’ ( Mark 1:20 ). Their mother was Salome, and, since she was apparently a sister of the Virgin Mary (cf. Matthew 27:56 = Mark 15:40 with John 19:25 ), they were cousins of Jesus after the flesh. Like his brother, James worked with Zebedee in partnership with Simon and Andrew ( Luke 5:10 ), and he was busy with boat and nets when Jesus called him to leave all and follow Him ( Matthew 4:21-22 = Mark 1:19-20 ). His name is coupled with John’s in the lists of the Apostles ( Matthew 10:2 = Mark 3:17 = Luke 6:14 ), which means that, when the Twelve were sent out two by two to preach the Kingdom of God ( Mark 6:7 ), they wentin company. And they seem to have been men of like spirit. They got from Jesus the same appellation, ‘the Sons of Thunder’ (see Boanerges), and they stood, with Simon Peter, on terms of special intimacy with Him. James attained less distinction than his brother, but the reason is not that he had less devotion or aptitude, but that his life came to an untimely end. He was martyred by Herod Agrippa ( Acts 12:2 ).

2. James, the son of Alphæus (probably identical with Clopas of John 19:25 RV [Note: Revised Version.] ), styled ‘the Little’ (not ‘the Less’), probably on account of the shortness of his stature, to distinguish him from the other Apostle James, the son of Zebedee. His mother was Mary, one of the devoted women who stood by the Cross and visited the Sepulchre. He had a brother Joses, who was apparently a believer. See Mark 15:40 , John 19:25 , Mark 16:1 .

Tradition says that he had been a tax-gatherer, and it is very possible that his father Alphæus was the same person as Alphæus the father of Levi the tax-gatherer (Mark 2:14 ), afterwards Matthew the Apostle and Evangelist. If these identifications he admitted, that family was indeed highly favoured. It gave to the Kingdom of heaven a father, a mother, and three sons, of whom two were Apostles.

3. James, the Lord’s brother (see Brethren of the Lord). Like the rest of the Lord’s brethren, James did not believe in Him while He lived, but acknowledged His claims after the Resurrection. He was won to faith by a special manifestation of the risen Lord ( 1 Corinthians 15:7 ). Thereafter he rose to high eminence. He was the head of the Church at Jerusalem, and figures in that capacity on three occasions. (1) Three years after his conversion Paul went up to Jerusalem to interview Peter, and, though he stayed for fifteen days with him, he saw no one else except James ( Galatians 1:18-19 .). So soon did James’s authority rival Peter’s. (2) After an interval of fourteen years Paul went up again to Jerusalem ( Galatians 2:1-10 ). This was the occasion of the historic conference regarding the terms on which the Gentiles should be admitted into the Christian Church; and James acted as president, his decision being unanimously accepted ( Acts 15:4-34 ). (3) James was the acknowledged head of the Church at Jerusalem, and when Paul returned from his third missionary journey he waited on him and made a report to him in presence of the elders ( Acts 21:18-19 ).

According to extra-canonical tradition, James was surnamed ‘the Just’; he was a Nazirite from his mother’s womb, abstaining from strong drink and animal food, and wearing linen; he was always kneeling in intercession for the people, so that his knees were callous like a camel’s; he was cruelly martyred by the Scribes and Pharisees: they cast him down from the pinnacle of the Temple (cf. Matthew 4:5 , Luke 4:9 ), and as the fall did not kill him, they stoned him, and he was finally despatched with a fuller’s club.

This James was the author of the NT Epistle which bears his name; and it is an indication of his character that he styles himself there (James 1:1 ) not ‘the brother ,’ but the ‘ servant of the Lord Jesus Christ.’ See next article.

4. James, the father of the Apostle Judas ( Luke 6:16 RV [Note: Revised Version.] ), otherwise unknown. The AV [Note: Authorized Version.] ‘Judas the brother of James’ is an impossible identification of the Apostle Judas with the author of the Epistle ( Judges 1:1 ).

David Smith.

Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'James'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​hdb/​j/james.html. 1909.
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