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James the Brother of Christ

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JAMES (Gk.{Gk. Greek} Iakoµbos, Heb.{Heb. Hebrew} yaÕaqoµb_, ‘heel-catcher’, ‘supplanter’).

1. The son of Zebedee, a Galilean fisherman who was called with his brother John to be one of the twelve apostles (Mt. 4:21). These two along with Peter formed the inner core of three among the twelve, being present at the raising of Jairus’ daughter (Mk. 5:37), the transfiguration (Mk. 9:2), and the agony in Gethsemane (Mk. 14:33) to the exclusion of the others. James and John, whom Jesus nicknamed ‘Boanerges, that is, sons of thunder’ (Mk. 3:17), were rebuked by Jesus when they suggested that they should ‘bid fire come down from heaven’ to destroy a Samaritan village which had refused to receive the Jerusalem-bound Jesus (Lk. 9:54). The pair also caused envy among the disciples by requesting a place of honour in Christ’s kingdom; while not promised this advantage, they were told they would drink the cup their Master was to drink (Mk. 10:39), a prophecy which was fulfilled for James when he was ‘killed. . . with the sword’ by Herod Agrippa I, c.{c. circa (Lat.), about, approximately} ad{ad anno Domini} 44 (Acts 12:2).

2. The son of Alphaeus, another of the twelve apostles (Mt. 10:3; Acts 1:13). He is usually identified with ‘James the younger’, the son of Mary (Mk. 15:40). The description ‘the younger’ (Gk.{Gk. Greek} ho mikros, ‘the little’) distinguishes him from the sons of Zebedee as either younger or smaller in stature.

3. An otherwise unknown James who was the father of the apostle Judas (not Iscariot) in the Lucan writings (Lk. 6:16; Acts 1:13; the other Gospels have Thaddaeus instead of Judas).

4. The brother of Jesus who, along with his brothers Joses, Simon and Judas (Mt. 13:55), apparently did not accept the authority of Jesus before the resurrection (see Mk. 3:21 and Jn. 7:5). After the risen Jesus had appeared to him (1 Cor. 15:7), he became a leader of the Jewish-Christian church at Jerusalem (Gal. 1:19; 2:9; Acts 12:17). Tradition stated that he was appointed first bishop of Jerusalem by the Lord himself (Eusebius, EH{EH Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History} 7. 19). He presided at the first Council of Jerusalem, which considered the terms of admission of Gentiles into the church, formulated the decree which was promulgated to the churches of Antioch, Syria and Cilicia (Acts 15:19-23), and remained as sole leader of the Jerusalem church, working to maintain its unity with Paul and his mission when Paul visited Jerusalem for the last time (Acts 21:18ff.{ff. and the following (verses, etc.)}). A few years later James suffered martyrdom by stoning at the instigation of the high priest Ananus during the interregnum after the death of the procurator Festus in ad{ad anno Domini} 61 (Josephus, Ant.{Ant. Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews} 20. 9). Hegesippus’ largely legendary tradition claims that James was known as ‘the Just’ because of his (Jewish) piety (Eusebius, EH{EH Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History} 2. 23). Jerome (De viris illustribus 2) records a fragment from the lost apocryphal Gospel according to the Hebrews (*New Testament Apocrypha) containing a brief and probably unhistorical account of the appearance of the risen Jesus to James. James is the traditional author of the canonical Epistle of James, where he describes himself as ‘a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ’ (Jas. 1:1).

Bibliography. J. B. Lightfoot, Galatians, 1896.  p.h.d.{p.h.d. P. H. Davids, B.A., M.Div., Ph.D., Head of Department of Biblical Studies and Language, Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry, Ambridge, Pennsylvania}

The New Bible Dictionary, (Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.) 1962.

2385. ÆIavkwbo" IaŒkoµbos; or Iakoµb; gen. Iakoµbou, masc{masc (masculine)}. proper noun. James

(I) James the father of Judas (Luke 6:16), i.e., Judas “not Iscariot” (John 14:22), the Thaddaeus of Matt. 10:3; Mark 3:18. The kjv translation “And Judas the brother of James” in Gr{Gr (Greek)}. is IouŒdan Iakoµbou, which the nkjv, nasb, and niv correctly translate “son” instead of “brother.” The relationship word “son” or “brother” is supplied by the translators. The word “son” is preferred because Luke inserts adelphoŒs (80), brother, when he means brother (Luke 3:1; 6:14; Acts 12:2). Thus James is the father of Judas, not his brother. Nothing more is known of this James.

(II) James the brother of John and one of the Twelve Apostles (Matt. 10:2; Mark 3:17; Luke 6:14; Acts 1:13). He was the elder son of Zebedee, a well–to–do Galilean fisherman, most probably a native of Capernaum. The two sons of Zebedee were partners with Peter in the fishing industry from which they were called to follow Christ (Matt. 4:21, 22; Mark 1:19, 20; Luke 5:10). The usual order is “James and John” and Luke sometimes inverts it (Luke 8:51; 9:28; Acts 1:13), probably because of the early death of James and the subsequent prominence of John. It is possible that their mother was Salome (Matt. 27:56 [cf{cf (compare, comparison)}. Mark 15:40]).

The Lord gave the two brothers the name Boanerges, “sons of thunder,” perhaps because of their impetuous zeal for their Master’s honor, shown by incidents like the wish to call down fire to consume certain Samaritans who refused Him passage through their country (Luke 9:54 [cf{cf (compare, comparison)}. Mark 9:38; Luke 9:49, 50]).

James was part of the Inner Circle, which also included his brother John and Peter, thus he is specially mentioned as present at the healing of Peter’s wife’s mother (Mark 1:29), at the raising of Jairus’ daughter (Mark 5:37), at the Transfiguration (Mark 9:2), at the Mt. of Olives during the great eschatological discourse (Mark 13:3), and at the agony in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:33). On two of these occasions, the first and the fourth, Andrew is associated with the three. The special favor accorded to the two brothers probably prompted the ambitious request of their mother that they might sit as assessors to Christ in His kingdom (Matt. 20:20–23; Mark 10:35–40).

James was the first of the apostolic band to be called upon to “drink the cup” of suffering (Mark 10:38, 39), being beheaded by Herod Agrippa I in a.d. 44 (Acts 12:2).

(III) James the son of Alphaeus, one of the Twelve Apostles (Matt. 10:3; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:15; Acts 1:13), referred to as James the lesser (ho mikroŒs [3398], the little), the son of Mary (Mark 15:40 [cf{cf (compare, comparison)}. Matt. 27:56]; John 19:25, probably Mary the wife of Cleophas making Cleophas and Alphaeus the same). It is possible that he was a brother of Matthew, who is also called a “son of Alphaeus” (Matt. 9:9 [cf{cf (compare, comparison)}. Mark 2:14]).

(IV) James the Lord’s brother (Matt. 13:55; Mark 6:3), distinguished from the Twelve and particularly from James the son of Alphaeus (Matt. 10:3; John 2:12; Acts 1:14 [cf{cf (compare, comparison)}. Matt. 12:47–50]). Other references to the Lord’s brothers are Matt. 12:46–50; Mark 3:31–35; Luke 8:19–21. During Christ’s ministry His brothers did not believe on Him (John 7:3–5), but later they were present with Mary and the apostles in an upper room (Acts 1:14). The following references outside the gospels have to do with James: Acts 1:13, 14; 12:17; 21:18–25; 1 Cor. 15:7; Gal. 1:18, 19; 2:1–10. From these passages we learn that he was converted to a full acknowledgement of Christ (probably by the Resurrection), that the Lord appeared to him specially, that he became head of the Church of Jerusalem, and that he was put to death by the Jews either just before the siege (Hegesippus) or some 10 years earlier (Josephus). He was surnamed the Just by his fellow countrymen, and was greatly respected by all classes in Jerusalem.

The Epistle of James is almost universally attributed to the brother of the Lord. This book is of greatest interest to students of the gospels. There is no epistle which contains in a small compass so many allusions to Christ’s teachings. Note the following striking parallels: Matt. 5:3 with James 2:5; Matt. 5:7 with James 2:13; Matt. 5:9 with James 3:18; Matt. 5:11, 12 with James 1:2, 9; Matt. 5:34–37 with James 5:12; Matt. 6:19 with James 5:2; Matt. 6:24 with James 4:4; Matt. 7:1 with James 4:11, 12; Matt. 7:7, 8 with James 1:5; Matt. 7:12 with James 2:8; Matt. 7:16 with James 3:11, 12; Matt. 7:24 with James 1:22; Matt. 12:36 with James 3:1, 2; Matt. 18:4 with James 4:6; Luke 6:24 with James 5:1; Luke 8:15; 21:19 (hupomoneµ [5281], patience, used by Luke only in his gospel) with James 1:3, 4; 5:11; Luke 12:16–21 with James 4:14; John 8:31 with James 1:25; John 13:17 with James 4:17. The Epistle of James is clearly the work of one trained in the strict observance of the Law, yet divorced from blind Pharisaic formalism denounced by our Lord (James 1:22–27; 2:8–12; 4:5–7; 5:10, 11).

Zodhiates, Spiros, The Complete Word Study Dictionary, New Testament, (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers) 2000, c1992, c1993.

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