James, son of Alphaeus
|James The Less|
Statue of St James at the Church of the Mafra Palace, Portugal
Egypt or Jerusalem
|Honored in||Roman Catholic Church, Anglican Communion, Eastern Orthodox Church|
|Feast||1 May (Anglican Communion),
May 3 (Roman Catholic Church),
9 October (Eastern Orthodox Church)
|Attributes||carpenter's saw; fuller's club; book|
|Patronage||apothecaries; druggists; dying people; Frascati, Italy; fullers; milliners; Monterotondo, Italy; pharmacists; Uruguay|
James, son of Alphaeus (Ἰάκωβος, Iakōbos in Greek) was one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ, appearing under this name in all three of the Synoptic Gospels' lists of the apostles. He is often identified with James the Less (Greek Iacobos ho mikros, Ἰακώβος ο μικρος Mark 15:40) and commonly known by that name in church tradition. He is also labelled "the minor", "the little", "the lesser", or "the younger", according to translation.
James, the son of Alphaeus, is rarely mentioned in the New Testament. He is distinguished from James the Lord's brother (Gal.1:19), an important leader in the New Testament church, and James, son of Zebedee, another one of the Twelve Apostles.
- 1 Sources
- 2 Identity
- 3 Gospel of Mark
- 4 Gospel of Matthew
- 5 Tradition
- 6 References
Possible identity with James the Less
James, son of Alphaeus is often identified with James the Less, who is only mentioned three times in the Bible, each time in connection with his mother. Mark 15:40 refers to "Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses", while Mark 16:1 and Matthew 27:56 refer to "Mary the mother of James".
Since there was already another James (James, son of Zebedee) among the twelve apostles, equating James son of Alphaeus with "James the Less" made sense. (James son of Zebedee was sometimes called "James the Greater").
Modern Biblical scholars are divided on whether this identification is correct. John Paul Meier finds it unlikely. Amongst evangelicals, the New Bible Dictionary supports the traditional identification, while Don Carson and Darrell Bock both regard the identification as possible, but not certain.
Jerome's identification with James, the "brother" of Jesus
As a consequence of the doctrine of perpetual virginity Jerome proposed that James, son of Alphaeus, was to be identified with "James, the brother of the Lord" (Gal.1:19) and that the term "brother" was to be understood as "cousin." The view of Jerome, the "Hieronymian view," became widely accepted in the Roman Catholic Church, while Eastern Catholics, Eastern Orthodox and Protestants tend to distinguish between the two. Geike (1884) states that Hausrath, Delitzsch, and Schenkel think James the Just was the son of Clophas-Alphaeus.
Possible brother of Matthew
Another Alphaeus is also the name of the father of the publican Levi mentioned in Mark 2:14. The publican appears as Matthew in Matthew 9:9, which has led some to conclude that James and Matthew might have been brothers. The four times that James son of Alphaeus is mentioned directly in the Bible (each time in the list of the Apostles) the only family relationship stated is that his father is Alphaeus. In two lists of the Apostles, James and John are listed as brothers and that their father is Zebedee.
Gospel of Mark
Calling of James, Son of Alphaeus
Mark the Evangelist is the earliest known source in the bible to mention "James, son of Alphaeus" as one of the twelve Apostles if Markan priority is true. Mark the Evangelist mentions a "James, son of Alphaeus" only once and this is in his list of the 12 Apostles Mark 3:16-19. At the beginning of Jesus' ministry he first calls Peter and his brother Andrew and asks them to follow him Mark 1:16-17. In the next verses it tells the story of how James the Greater and his brother John the Apostle came to follow Jesus Mark 1:19-20. After some healing by Jesus he meets Levi son of Alphaeus who was a tax collector and he then asks Levi (better known as Matthew) to follow him Mark 2:14Matthew 9:9. Peter, Andrew, James the Greater and John the Apostle are listed as Apostles Mark 3:16-19. Levi, son of Alphaeus is listed as an Apostle under the name of Matthew, but James alone is listed as the son of Alphaeus Mark 3:16-19.
Overall Mark the Evangelist lists three different Jameses. "James, son of Alphaeus", James the Greater and James the brother of Jesus Mark 6:3. On three separate occasions he writes about a James without clarifying which James he is referring to. There is a James at the transfiguration Mark 9:2, at the Mount of Olives Mark 13:3 and the Garden of Gethsemane Mark 14:33. Although this James is listed alongside John the Apostle a clear distinction isn't made about which Apostle James is being referred to, even when both Apostles are meant to be in a similar location. All twelve Apostles attend the Last Supper Mark 14:33 which immediately precedes Garden of Gethsemane. There is a reference to Mary mother of James the Younger and Joseph Mark 15:40; however, Mark the Evangelist has already told us that James the brother of Jesus has a brother called Joseph Mark 6:3.
Gospel of Matthew
Calling of James, Son of Alphaeus
Peter, Andrew, James, son of Zebedee and his brother John were all called to follow Jesus Matthew 4:18-22. In a story that parallels the calling of Levi, son of Alphaeus, Matthew is called to follow Jesus Matthew 9:9-13. Matthew is never referred directly to as being the Son of Alphaeus in the Gospel of Matthew or any other book in the Bible, but like Levi, Son of Alphaeus in Mark he is regarded as a tax collector Matthew 9:9. In the Gospel of Matthew the tax collector (Matthew) called to follow Jesus is listed as one of the twelve Apostles. James, son of Alphaeus is also listed as one of the 12 Apostles Matthew 10:3.
Matthew doesn’t mention any James in his Gospel that isn’t identified without association to his family. There are 3 James that are mentioned by Matthew; James, Brother of Jesus, Joseph, Simon and Judas Matthew 13:55, James son of Zebedee and brother of John Matthew 10:2 and James, son of Alphaeus. At the Transfiguration it is specified that the James is brother of John Matthew 13:55 and at the Garden of Gethsemane it is specified that it is the son of Zebedee Matthew 26:37. It is not specified by Matthew that there was a James at the Mount of Olives; he mentions only disciples Matthew 24:3. Matthew also mentions a Mary the mother of James and Joseph who was at the crucifixion. This James is not given the epithet the younger Matthew 27:56.
Saint James was arrested along with an unspecified number of Christians and was subsequently beheaded by Herod in persecution of the church. Acts 12:1,2 However, the James in Acts 12:1,2 has a brother called John. James, son of Zebedee has a brother called John Matthew 4:21 and we are never explicitly told that James son of Alphaeus has a brother. Robert Eisenman  and The New Advent online Catholic Encyclopedia  both suggest that the death of James in Acts 12:1-2 is James, son of Zebedee and not James son of Alphaeus. In Christian art he is depicted holding a fuller's club (when identified with James the Less). Tradition maintains he was crucified at Ostrakine in Lower Egypt, where he was preaching the Gospel.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Saint James the Less.|
- Catholic Forum Patron Saints Index: James the Lesser
- Matthew 10:3, Mark 3:18, Luke 6:12-16 and Acts 1:13.
- John Paul Meier, A Marginal Jew volume 3, p. 201. "There are no grounds for identifying James of Alphaeus - as church tradition has done - with James the Less."
- New Bible Dictionary, 2nd Edition (IVP 1982), "James" entry (by P.H.Davids)
- "The Expositor's Bible Commentary CDROM, commentary on Matthew (by Don Carson), commentary on Matthew 10:2-4
- Luke, by Darrell Bock (Baker 1994), commentary on Luke 6:15
- John Saward - Cradle of redeeming love: the theology of the Christmas mystery p18 2002 "St Jerome concludes that St James, son of Alphaeus, and St James, brother of the Lord, are one and the same person.169 But why is James, son of Alphaeus, called our Lord's 'brother'? St Jerome's answer is as follows. In Matthew 13:55 we hear of four 'brothers' of our Lord: James and Joseph, Simon and Jude. Later, in the Passion narrative, St Matthew mentions a Mary who is the mother of James and Joseph (cf Mt 27:56) "
- The brother of Jesus: James the Just and his mission p17 Bruce Chilton, Jacob Neusner - 2001 "Given that James has been identified as the son of Alphaeus, Jerome indicates he cannot explain the connection of Mary the ... Chrysostom (347-407) was first to suggest that James the brother of the Lord is the son of Clopas though ..."
- Catholic Encyclopedia: Saint James the Less
- John Cunningham Geikie The life and words of Christ Volume 1 1884 "Alphaeus, or Alpheus __, and Clopas are different ways of pronouncing in Greek the Hebrew name ___ (Chal'phai) ... Hausrath, Delitzsch, and Schenkel, think James the Just was the son of Clophas-Alphaeus."
- John MacArthur, Jr., Daily Readings from The Life of Christ, page 50 (Moody Publishers, 2009). ISBN 978-0-8042-5601-4
- Warren W. Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary: The Complete New Testament, page 848 (David C. Cook, 2007). ISBN 978-0-7814-4539-9
- Matthew 10:2-3, Mark 3:16-19, Luke 6:11-16 and Acts 1:13.
- Matthew 10:2-3, Mark 3:16-19
- The Good News Bible Revised Edition 1994 indicate that Mark 2:13-17 and Matthew 9:9-13 are the same story
- The Good News Bible Revised Edition 1994
- "James brother of Jesus" Robert Eisenman
- Catholic Encyclopedia: James son of Zebedee
- Hilarie Cornwell, James Cornwell, Saints, Signs, and Symbols, page 49 (Morehouse Publishing, 2009). ISBN 978-0-8192-2345-6
- Philip Schaff, History of the Apostolic Church: with a General Introduction to Church History, page 389 (New York: Charles Scribner, 1853). Citing Nikephoros, Historia Ecclesiastica II:40.