[English equivalent of Jacob, meaning, “One Seizing the Heel; Supplanter”].
2. Son of Zebedee; brother of John and one of the 12 apostles of Jesus Christ. (Mt 10:2) His mother, it seems, was Salome, as may be noted by comparing two accounts of the same event. One mentions “the mother of the sons of Zebedee,” the other calls her “Salome.” (Mt 27:55, 56; Mr 15:40, 41; see SALOME No. 1.) A further comparison of John 19:25 perhaps points to Salome as the fleshly sister of Mary, Jesus’ mother. If so, James was a first cousin of Jesus.
James and his brother were working with their father in the fishing business in 30 C.E. when Jesus called them, together with associate fishermen Peter and Andrew, to be his disciples and “fishers of men.” In answering Jesus’ call, James and John left a fishing business that was a partnership with Peter and Andrew and that was large enough to employ hired men.—Mt 4:18-22; Mr 1:19, 20; Lu 5:7-10.
Often Peter, James, and John were mentioned as being together in close company with Christ. For example, these three were the only ones present with Christ in the mount of transfiguration (Mt 17:1, 2), were the only apostles invited into the house to witness the resurrection of Jairus’ daughter (Lu 8:51), and were the ones closest to Jesus in Gethsemane while he was praying that last night (Mr 14:32-34). Peter, James, and John, together with Andrew, were the ones that asked Jesus when the foretold destruction of Jerusalem’s temple would be and what would be the sign of his presence and of the conclusion of the system of things. (Mr 13:3, 4) James is always mentioned along with his brother John, and in the majority of instances he is mentioned first. This may indicate he was the older of the two.—Mt 4:21; 10:2; 17:1; Mr 1:19, 29; 3:17; 5:37; 9:2; 10:35, 41; 13:3; 14:33; Lu 5:10; 6:14; 8:51; 9:28, 54; Ac 1:13.
To James and his brother, Jesus gave the surname Boanerges, a Semitic term meaning “Sons of Thunder.” (Mr 3:17) This may have been because of the energetic, fiery, and enthusiastic nature of these men. On one occasion, for example, when certain Samaritans were inhospitable toward Jesus, James and John wanted to call down fire from heaven to annihilate them. Although reproved by Jesus for suggesting such revenge, this attitude was indicative of their righteous indignation and also of their faith. (Lu 9:51-55) They also entertained ambitions of having the most prominent positions in the Kingdom, at the right and left hands of Jesus, and they apparently got their mother (possibly Jesus’ aunt) to request such favors of him. After explaining that such decisions were made by the Father, Jesus took the occasion to point out that “whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave.”—Mt 20:20-28.
James evidently died in 44 C.E. Herod Agrippa I had him executed with the sword. He was the first of the 12 apostles to die as a martyr.—Ac 12:1-3.
3. Another apostle of Jesus Christ and son of Alphaeus. (Mt 10:2, 3; Mr 3:18; Lu 6:15; Ac 1:13) It is generally believed and quite probable that Alphaeus was the same person as Clopas, in which event James’ mother was Mary, the same Mary that was “the mother of James the Less and of Joses.” (Joh 19:25; Mr 15:40; Mt 27:56) He may have been called James the Less because of being either smaller in physical stature or younger in age than the other apostle James, the son of Zebedee.
4. Son of Joseph and Mary, and half brother of Jesus. (Mr 6:3; Ga 1:19) Although not an apostle, it was evidently this James who was an overseer of the Christian congregation at Jerusalem (Ac 12:17) and who wrote the Bible book bearing his name. (Jas 1:1) He may have been next to Jesus in age, being the first named of Mary’s four natural-born sons: James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas. (Mt 13:55; see BROTHER.) Paul implies in his letter to the Corinthians, written about the year 55 C.E., that James was married.—1Co 9:5.
It appears that during Jesus’ ministry James was well acquainted with his brother’s activity (Lu 8:19; Joh 2:12), but though apparently not opposed, he was not one of the disciples and followers of Christ. (Mt 12:46-50; Joh 7:5) He was probably with his nonbelieving brothers when they urged Jesus to go boldly up to the Festival of Tabernacles, at a time when the rulers of the Jews were seeking to kill him. (Joh 7:1-10) James also may have been numbered among the relatives that said of Jesus: “He has gone out of his mind.”—Mr 3:21.
However, after the death of Jesus and prior to Pentecost 33 C.E., James was assembled for prayer together with his mother, brothers, and the apostles in an upper chamber in Jerusalem. (Ac 1:13, 14) It was evidently to this James that the resurrected Jesus appeared personally, as reported at 1 Corinthians 15:7, so convincing this onetime nonbeliever that He was indeed the Messiah. This reminds us of Jesus’ personal appearance to Paul.—Ac 9:3-5.
Thereafter James became a prominent member and, apparently, an “apostle” of the Jerusalem congregation. (See APOSTLE [Congregational Apostleships].) Thus, at Paul’s first visit with the Jerusalem brothers (about 36 C.E.), he says he spent 15 days with Peter but “saw no one else of the apostles, only James the brother of the Lord.” (Ga 1:18, 19) Peter, after his miraculous release from prison, instructed the brothers at John Mark’s home, “Report these things to James and the brothers,” thereby indicating James’ prominence. (Ac 12:12, 17) About 49 C.E. the issue of circumcision came before “the apostles and the older men” at Jerusalem. Following personal testimony by Peter, Barnabas, and Paul, James spoke, offering a decision that was approved and adopted by the assembly. (Ac 15:6-29; compare Ac 16:4.) Referring to that occasion, Paul says that James, Cephas, and John “seemed to be pillars” among those at Jerusalem. (Ga 2:1-9) At the close of a later missionary tour, Paul, in Jerusalem, reported on his ministry to James and “all the older men,” and these then gave him certain counsel to follow.—Ac 21:15-26; see also Ga 2:11-14.
That it was this ‘brother of Jesus’ who wrote the book of James, and not one of the apostles by the same name (either the son of Zebedee or the son of Alphaeus), seems to be indicated at the beginning of his letter. There the writer identifies himself as “a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,” rather than as an apostle. In a similar fashion his brother Judas (Jude) also identified himself as “a slave of Jesus Christ, but a brother of James.” (Jas 1:1; Jude 1) Both brothers humbly avoided identifying themselves as fleshly brothers of the Lord Jesus Christ.
His being called “James the Just” is based on traditions that say he was so designated because of his way of life. There is no record in the Scriptures of James’ death. The secular historian Josephus, however, says that during the interval between the death of Governor Festus, about 62 C.E., and the arrival of his successor Albinus, the high priest, Ananus (Ananias), “convened the judges of the Sanhedrin and brought before them a man named James, the brother of Jesus who was called the Christ, and certain others. He accused them of having transgressed the law and delivered them up to be stoned.”—Jewish Antiquities, XX, 200 (ix, 1).