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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament


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ALPHaeUS (Ἀλφαῖος).—In the NT this name is borne by (1) the father of the Levi who is commonly identified with Matthew the Apostle (Mark 2:14); (2) the father of the second James in the lists of the Apostles (Matthew 10:3, Mark 3:18, Luke 6:15, Acts 1:13). The desire to connect as many of the Twelve as possible by ties of natural relationship has led some (e.g. Weiss) to identify the two. But in the lists Matthew and James are separated by Thomas in St. Mark and St. Luke; and even in St. Matthew, where one follows the other, there is no note that they were brothers, similar to that attached to the names of the sons of Zebedee.

The identification of (2) with the Clopas of John 19:25 rests on two hypotheses: (α) The assumption that as a Mary is given as the mother of James, and consequently as the wife of Alphaeus, she must be the same as Mary the wife of Clopas who stood by the Cross. Jerome (de Perpet. Virg. v. 16) adopted this argument. But Mary is a name of far too common occurrence in the NT to make this theory of any value. (β) The alleged derivation of the names Alphaeus and Clopas from a common Aramaic original. But this has not been satisfactorily established: there is even a lack of agreement as to the form of the original. WH [Note: H Westcott and Hort’s text.] hold that its initial letter would be ח, and print Ἀλφαῖος accordingly; but Edersheim quotes the Babylonian Talmud to show that the letter would be א. Jerome, although predisposed by his view of the Brethren of the Lord in favour of finding the same man under both names, rejects the linguistic identification; and the Syriac versions also represent them by different words. Delitzsch held Alphaeus to be a Grecized form of an Aramaic word, but Clopas and Cleopas to be abbreviations of a Greek name Cleopatros (against this see Deissmann, Bible Studies, English translation p. 315 n. [Note: note.] ).

Nothing is known of either Alphaeus beyond the name; for such details as that (2) was the brother of Joseph, the reputed father of the Lord, stand or fall with his identification with Clopas to whom they really belong. See art. Clopas, below.

Literature.—Lightfoot, Essay on ‘The Brethren of the Lord’ in his Commentary on Galatians, also in Dissertations on the Apost. Age, p. 1; Mayor, The Epistle of St. James, Introd. p. xxi; Edersheim, Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, bk. v. ch. 15; Andrews, Life of our Lord upon Earth, 114, 115; Weiss, Life of Christ, bk. iv. ch. 7 [English translation].

C. T. Dimont.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Alphaeus'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

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