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International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
(1) The Son of Zebedee , one of the Twelve Apostles ( ὁ τοῦ Ζεβεδαίου ,
A) the Son of Zebedee
I. In the New Testament
1. Family Relations, Etc
To the Synoptists alone are we indebted for any account of this James. He was the son of Zebedee and the brother of John (Matthew 4:21; Mark 1:19; Luke 5:10 ). As the Synoptists generally place the name of James before that of John, and allude to the latter as "the brother of James," it is inferred that James was the elder of the two brothers. His mother's name was probably Salome, the sister of the mother of Jesus (compare Matthew 27:56; Mark 15:40; John 19:25 ), but this is disputed by some (compare BRETHREN OF THE LORD ). James was a fisherman by trade, and worked along with his father and brother (Matthew 4:21 ). According to Lk, these were partners with Simon (Luke 5:10 ), and this is also implied in Mk (Mark 1:19 ). As they owned several boats and employed hired servants (Luke 5:11; Mark 1:20 ), the establishment they possessed must have been considerable.
2. First Call
The call to James to follow Christ (Matthew 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-20; Luke 5:1-11 ) was given by Jesus as He was walking by the sea of Galilee (Matthew 4:18 ). There He saw "James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and he called them. And they straightway left the boat and their father, and followed him" (Matthew 4:21 , Matthew 4:22 ). The account of Luke varies in part from those of Matthew and Mark, and contains the additional detail of the miraculous draught of fishes, at which James and John also were amazed. This version of Luke is regarded by some as an amalgamation of the earlier accounts with John 21:1-8 .
3. Probation and Ordination
As the above incident took place after the imprisonment of John the Baptist, when Jesus had departed into Galilee (Matthew 4:12; Mark 1:14 ), and as there is no mention of James among those who received the preliminary call recorded by John (compare Jn 1:35-51; John 3:24 , and compare ANDREW ), it is probable that while Peter and Andrew made the pilgrimage to Bethany, James and the other partners remained in Galilee to carry on the business of their trade. Yet, on the return of Peter and Andrew, the inquiries of James must have been eager concerning what they had seen and heard. His mind and imagination became filled with their glowing accounts of the newly found "Lamb of God" (John 1:36 ) and of the preaching of John the Baptist, until he inwardly dedicated his life to Jesus and only awaited an opportunity to declare his allegiance openly. By this is the apparently abrupt nature of the call, as recorded by the Synoptists, to be explained. After a period of companionship and probationership with his Master, when he is mentioned as being present at the healing of Simon's wife's mother at Capernaum (Mark 1:29-31 ), he was ordained one of the Twelve Apostles (Matthew 10:2; Mark 3:17; Luke 6:14; Acts 1:13 ).
From this time onward he occupied a prominent place among the apostles, and, along with Peter and John, became the special confidant of Jesus. These three alone of the apostles were present at the raising of Jairus' daughter (Mark 5:37; Luke 8:51 ), at the Transfiguration (Mr John 17:1-8; Mark 9:2-8; Luke 9:28-36 ), and at the Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-46; Mark 14:32-42 ). Shortly after the Transfiguration, when Jesus, having "stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem" (Luke 9:51 ), was passing through Samaria, the ire of James and John was kindled by the ill reception accorded to Him by the populace (Luke 9:53 ). They therefore asked of Jesus, "Lord, wilt thou that we bid fire to come down from heaven, and consume them?" (Luke 9:54 ). "But he turned, and rebuked them" (Luke 9:55 ). It was probably this hotheaded impetuosity and fanaticism that won for them the surname "Boanerges, which is, Sons of thunder," bestowed on them when they were ordained to the Twelve (Mark 3:17 ). Yet upon this last occasion, there was some excuse for their action. The impression left by the Transfiguration was still deep upon them, and they felt strongly that their Lord, whom they had lately beheld "in his glory" with "countenance altered" and "glistering raiment," should be subjected to such indignities by the Samaritans. Upon the occasion of Jesus' last journey to Jerusalem (Mark 10:32 ), the two brothers gave expression to this presumptuous impetuosity in a more selfish manner (Mark 10:35-45 ). Presuming on their intimacy with Jesus, they made the request of him, "Grant unto us that we may sit, one on thy right hand, and one on thy left hand, in thy glory" (Mark 10:37 ). In the account of Matthew (Matthew 20:20-28 ), the words are put in the mouth of their mother. The request drew forth the rebuke of Jesus (Mark 10:38 ), and moved the ten with indignation (Mark 10:40 ); but by the words of their Lord peace was again restored (Mark 10:42-45 ). After the arrival of Jesus in Jerusalem, when He "sat on the mount of Olives over against the temple," James was one of the four who put the question to Him concerning the last things (Mark 13:3 , Mark 13:1 ). He was also present when the risen Jesus appeared for the 3rd time to the disciples and the miraculous draught of fishes was made at the sea of Tiberias (John 21:1-14 ).
James was the first martyr among the apostles, being slain by King Herod Agrippa I about 44 ad, shortly before Herod's own death. The vehemence and fanaticism which were characteristic of James had made him to be feared and hated among the Jewish enemies of the Christians, and therefore when "Herod the king put forth his hands to afflict certain of the church ... he killed James the brother of John with the sword" (Acts 12:1 , Acts 12:2 ). Thus did James fulfill the prophecy of our Lord that he too should drink of the cup of his Master (Mark 10:39 ).
II. In Apocryphal Literature
According to the "Genealogies of the Twelve Apostles" (compare Budge, Contendings of the Apostles , II, 49), "Zebedee was of the house of Levi, and his wife of the house of Judah. Now, because the father of James loved him greatly he counted him among the family of his father Levi, and similarly because the mother of John loved him greatly, she counted him among the family of her father Judah. And they were surnamed 'Children of Thunder,' for they were of both the priestly house and of the royal house." The Acts of John, a heretical work of the 2nd century, referred to by Clement of Alexandria in his
(1) James is the patron saint of Spain. The legend of his preaching there, of his death in Judea, of the transportation of his body under the guidance of angels to Iria and of the part that his miraculous appearances played in the history of Spain, is given in Mrs. Jameson's Sacred and Legendary Art , I, 230-41.
(2) James the son of Alpheus ( ὁ τοῦ Ἀλφαίου ,
This James is generally identified with James the Little or the Less, the brother of Joses and son of Mary (Matthew 27:56; Mark 15:40 ). In John 19:25 this Mary is called the wife of Cleophas (the King James Version) or Clopas (Revised Version), who is thus in turn identified with Alpheus. There is evidence in apocryphal literature of a Simon, a son of Clopas, who was also one of the disciples (compare
(3) James , "the Lord's brother" ( ὁ ἀδελφὸς τοῦ Κυρίου ,
I. New Testament References
1. In the Gospels
This James is mentioned by name only twice in the Gospels, i.e. when, on the visit of Jesus to Nazareth, the countrymen of our Lord referred in contemptuous terms to His earthly kindred, in order to disparage His preaching (Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3 ). As James was one of "his brethren," he was probably among the group of Christ's relatives who sought to interview Him during His tour through Galilee with the Twelve (Matthew 12:46 ). By the same reasoning, he accompanied Jesus on His journey to Capernaum (John 2:12 ), and joined in attempting to persuade Him to depart from Galilee for Judea on the eve of the Feast of Tabernacles (John 7:3 ). At this feast James was present (John 7:10 ), but was at this time a non-believer in Jesus (compare John 7:5 , "Even his brethren did not believe on him").
2. In the Epistles
Yet the seeds of conversion were being sown within him, for, after the crucifixion, he remained in Jerusalem with his mother and brethren, and formed one of that earliest band of believers who "with one accord continued steadfastly in prayer" (Acts 1:14 ). While there, he probably took part in the election of Matthias to the vacant apostleship (Acts 1:15-25 ). James was one of the earliest witnesses to the resurrection, for, after the risen Lord had manifested Himself to the five hundred, "he was seen of James" (1 Corinthians 15:7 the King James Version). By this his growing belief and prayerful expectancy received confirmation. About 37 or 38 ad, James, "the Lord's brother" ( Galatians 1:19 ), was still in Jerusalem, and had an interview there for the first time with Paul, when the latter returned from his 3 years' sojourn in Damascus to visit Cephas, or Peter (Galatians 1:18 , Galatians 1:19; compare Acts 9:26 ). In several other passages the name of James is coupled with that of Peter. Thus, when Peter escaped from prison (about 44 ad), he gave instructions to those in the house of John Mark that they should immediately inform "James and the brethren" of the manner of his escape (Acts 12:17 ). By the time of the Jerusalem convention, i.e. about 51 ad (compare Galatians 2:1 ), James had reached the position of first overseer in the church (compare Acts 15:13 , Acts 15:19 ). Previous to this date, during Paul's ministry at Antioch, he had dispatched certain men thither to further the mission, and the teaching of these had caused dissension among the newly converted Christians and their leaders (Acts 15:1 , Acts 15:2; Galatians 2:12 ). The conduct of Peter, over whom James seems to have had considerable influence, was the principal matter of contention (compare Galatians 2:11 ). However, at the Jerusalem convention the dispute was amicably settled, and the pillars of the church, James, John and Cephas, gave to Paul and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship (Galatians 2:9 ). The speech of James on this occasion (Acts 15:13-29), his sympathy with the religious needs of the Gentile world (Acts 15:17 ), his desire that formalism should raise no barrier to their moral and spiritual advancement (Acts 15:19 , Acts 15:20 , Acts 15:28 , Acts 15:29 ), and his large-hearted tributes to the "beloved Barnabas and Paul" (Acts 15:25 , Acts 15:26 ), indicate that James was a leader in whom the church was blessed, a leader who loved peace more than faction, the spirit more than the law, and who perceived that religious communities with different forms of observance might still live and work together in common allegiance to Christ. Once more (58 ad), James was head of the council at Jerusalem when Paul made report of his labors, this time of his 3rd missionary Journey (Acts 21:17 ). At this meeting Paul was admonished for exceeding the orders he had received at the first council, in that he had endeavored to persuade the converted Jews also to neglect circumcision (Acts 21:21 ), and was commanded to join in the vow of purification (Acts 21:23-26 ). There is no Scriptural account of the death of James. From 1 Corinthians 9:5 it has been inferred that he was married. This is, however, only a conjecture, as the passage refers to those who "lead about a sister, a wife" (the King James Version), while, so far as we know, James remained throughout his life in Jerusalem.
This James has been regarded as the author of the Epistle of James, "a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ"; compare JAMES ,
II. References in Apocryphal Literature
James figures in one of the miraculous events recorded in the Gnostic "Gospel of the Infancy, by Thomas the Israelite philosopher," being cured of a snake-bite by the infant Jesus (compare Hennecke, Handbuch zu den neutestamentlichen Apokryphen, 73). According to the Gospel of the Hebrews (compare ib, 11-21), James had also partaken of the cup of the Lord, and refused to eat till he had seen the risen Lord. Christ acknowledged this tribute by appearing to James first. In the Acts of Peter (compare Budge, Contendings of the Apostles, II, 475), it is stated that "three days after the ascension of our Lord into heaven, James, whom our Lord called his 'brother in the flesh,' consecrated the Offering and we all drew nigh to partake thereof: and when ten days had passed after the ascension of our Lord, we all assembled in the holy fortress of Zion, and we stood up to say the prayer of sanctification, and we made supplication unto God and besought Him with humility, and James also entreated Him concerning the descent of the Holy Ghost upon the Offering." The Preaching of James the Just (compare Budge, II, 78-81) tells of the appointment of James to the bishopric of Jerusalem, of his preaching, healing of the sick and casting out of devils there. This is confirmed by the evidence of Clement of Alexandria (Euseb., HE, II, 1). In the Martyrdom of James the Just (compare Budge, II, 82-89), it is stated that J., "the youngest of the sons of Joseph," alienated, by his preaching, Piobsata from her husband Ananus, the governor of Jerusalem. Ananus therefore inflamed the Jews against James, and they hurled him down from off the pinnacle of the temple. Hegesippus, quoted by Eusebius (Historia Ecclesiastica, II, 23), and Josephus (Ant., XX, ix, 1), testify to the general truth of this. It is thus probable that James was martyred about 62 or 63 ad.
Besides the epistle which bears his name, James was also the reputed author of the Protevangelium Jacobi, a work which originated in the 2nd century and received later additions (compare Henn, NA, 47-63; also
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Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. Entry for 'James'. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/isb/j/james.html. 1915.