St. James the Less
THE IDENTITY OF JAMES
James in the New Testament is borne by several:
- 1. James, the son of Zebedee - Apostle, brother of John, Apostle; also
James the Greater.
- 2. James, the son of Alpheus, Apostle - Matthew 10:3; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:15; Acts 1:13.
- 3. James, the brother of the Lord - Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3; Galatians 1:19. Without a shadow of doubt, he must be identified with the James of Galatians 2:2 and 2:9; Acts 12:17, 15:13 sqq. and 21:18; and I Corinthians 15:7.
- 4. James, the son of Mary, brother of Joseph (or Joses) - Mark 15:40 (where
he is called ò mikros
the little, not the
less, as in the D.V., nor the
lesser); Matthew 27:56. Probably the son of Cleophas or Clopas (John 19:25) where
Maria Cleophæis generally translated
Mary the wife of Cleophas, as married women are commonly distinguished by the addition of their husband's name.
- 5. James, the brother of Jude - Jude 1:1. Most Catholic commentators
identify Jude with the
Judas Jacobi, the
brother of James(Luke 6:16; Acts 1:13), called thus because his brother James was beter known than himself in the primitive Church.
The identity of the Apostle James (2), the son of Alpheus and James (3), the
brother of the Lord and Bishop of the Church of Jerusalem (Acts 15, 21),
although contested by many critics and, perhaps, not quite beyond doubt, is at
least most highly probable, and by far the greater number of Catholic
interpreters is considered as certain (see BRETHREN OF THE LORD, where the chief
argument, taken from Galatians 1:19, in favour of the Apostleship of St. James,
the brother of the Lord, is to be found). The objection moved by Mader
(Biblische Zeitschrift, 1908, p. 393 sqq.) against the common statement that
Apostles in Galatians 1:19 is to be taken strictly in the sense of the
has been strongly impugned by Steinmann (Der Katholik, 1909, p. 207 sqq.). The
James (5) of Jude 1:1 must certainly be identified with James (3), the brother
of the Lord and the Bishop of Jerusalem. The identification of James (3), the
brother of the Lord and James (4), the son of Mary, and probably of Cleophas or
Clopas offers some difficulty. This identification requires the identity of Mary,
the mother of James (Matthew 27:56; Mark 15:40), with Mary the wife of Cleophas
(John 19:25), and, consequently, the identity of Alpheus (2) and Clopas (4). As
Clopas and Alpheus are probably not two different transcriptions of the same
Aramaic name Halpai (see CLEOPHAS), it must be admitted that two different names
have been borne by one man. Indeed, there are several examples of the use of two
names (a Hebrew and a Greek or Latin name) to designate the same person
(Simon-Petrus; Saulus-Paulus), so that the identity of Alpheus and Cleophas is
by no means improbable.
On the whole, although there is no full evidence for the identity of James
(2), the son of Alpheus, and James (3), the brother of the Lord, and James (4),
the son of Mary of Clopas, the view that one and the same person is described in
the New Testament in these three different ways, is by far the most probable.
There is, at any rate, very good ground (Galatians 1:19, 2:9, 2:12) for
believing that the Apostle James, the son of Alpheus is the same person as James,
the brother of the Lord, the well-known Bishop of Jerusalem of the Acts. As to
the nature of the relationship which the name
brother of the Lord is intended
to express, see BRETHREN OF THE LORD.
JAMES IN THE SCRIPTURES
Had we not identified James, the son of Alpheus with the brother of the Lord, we should only know his name and his Apostleship. But the identity once admitted, we must consequently apply to him all the particulars supplied by the books of the New Testament. We may venture to assert that the training of James (and his brother Jude), had been that which prevailed in all pious Jewish homes and that it was therefore based on the knowledge of the Holy Scripture and the rigorous observance of the Law. Many facts point to the diffusion of the Greek language and culture throughout Judea and Galilee, as early as the first century B.C.; we may suppose that the Apostles, at least most of them, read and spoke Greek as well as Aramaic, from their childhood. James was called to the Apostolate with his brother Jude; in all the four lists of the Apostles, he stands at the head of the third group (Matthew 10:3; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:16; Acts 1:13). Of James individually we hear no more until after the Resurrection. St. Paul (I Corinthians 15:5-7) mentions that the Lord appeared to him before the Ascension.
Then we lose sight of James till St. Paul, three years after his conversion
(A.D. 37), went up to Jerusalem. Of the Twelve Apostles he saw only Peter and
James the brother of the Lord (Galatians 1:19; Acts 9:27). When in the year 44
Peter escaped from prison, he desired that news of his release might be carried
to James who held already a marked preeminence in the Church of Jerusalem (Acts
12:17). In the Council of Jerusalem (A.D. 51) he gives his sentence after St.
Peter, declaring as Peter had done, that the Gentile Christians are not bound to
circumcision, nor to the observance of the ceremonial Mosaic Law, but at the
same time, he urged the advisability of conforming to certain ceremonies and of
respecting certain of the scruples of their Jewish fellow-Christians (Acts 15:13
sqq.). On the same occasion, the
pillars of the Church, James, Peter, and John
gave to me (Paul) and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go
unto the Gentiles, and they unto the circumcision (Galatians 2:9). He publicly
commended the great charter of Gentile freedom from the Law, although he still
continued the observance in his own life, no longer as a strict duty, but as an
ancient, most venerable and national custom, trusting to
be saved by the grace
of the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 15:11). When afterwards some came from James to
Antioch and led Peter into dissimulation (Galatians 2:12), his name was used by
them, though he had given them no such commandment to enforce their
interpretation of the concordat which, on his proposal, had been adopted at the
Council of Jerusalem. When St. Paul after his third missionary journey paid a
visit to St. James (A.D. 58), the Bishop of Jerusalem and
glorified the Lord and advised the Apostle to take part in the ceremonies of a
Nazarite vow, in order to show how false the charge was that he had spoken of
the Law as no longer to be regarded. Paul consented to the advice of James and
the elders (Acts 21:1 sqq.). The Epistle of St. James reveals a grave, meek, and
calm mind, nourished with the Scriptures of the Old Testament, given to prayer,
devoted to the poor, resigned in persecution, the type of a just and apostolic
JAMES OUTSIDE OF THE SCRIPTURES
Traditions respecting James the Less are to be found in many extra-canonical
documents, especially Josephus (Antiq., XX, ix, 1), the
Gospel according to the
Hebrews (St. Jerome, De vir. ill., II), Hegesippus (Eusebius,
Hist. eccl., II,
xxiii), the pseudo-Clementine Homilies (Ep. of Peter) and Recognitions (I, 72,
73), Clement of Alexandria (Hypot., vi, quoted by Eusebius,
Hist. eccl., II,
i). The universal testimony of Christian antiquity is entirely in accordance
with the information derived from the canonical books as to the fact that James
was Bishop of the Church of Jerusalem. Hegesippus, a Jewish Christian, who lived
about the middle of the second century, relates (and his narrative is highly
probable) that James was called the
Just, that he drank no wine nor strong
drink, nor ate animal food, that no razor touched his head, that he did not
anoint himself or make use of the bath, and lastly that he was put to death by
the Jews. The account of his death given by Josephus is somewhat different.
Later traditions deserve less attention.
For bibliography see EPISTLE OF SAINT JAMES; Protoevangelium Jacobi and Liturgy of St. James.
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