1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/James (New Testament)

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JAMES (Gr. Ἰάκωβος, the Heb. Yaʽakob or Jacob), the name of several persons mentioned in the New Testament.

1. James, the son of Zebedee. He was among the first who were called to be Christ’s immediate followers (Mark i. 19 seq.; Matt. iv. 21 seq., and perhaps Luke v. 10), and afterwards obtained an honoured place in the apostolic band, his name twice occupying the second place after Peter’s in the lists (Mark iii. 17; Acts i. 13), while on at least three notable occasions he was, along with Peter and his brother John, specially chosen by Jesus to be with him (Mark v. 37; Matt. xvii. i, xxvi. 37). This same prominence may have contributed partly to the title “Boanerges” or “sons of thunder” which, according to Mark iii. 17, Jesus himself gave to the two brothers. But its most natural interpretation is to be found in the impetuous disposition which would have called down fire from heaven on the offending Samaritan villagers (Luke ix. 54), and afterwards found expression, though in a different way, in the ambitious request to occupy the places of honour in Christ’s kingdom (Mark x. 35 seq.). James is included among those who after the ascension waited at Jerusalem (Acts i. 13) for the descent of the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost. And though on this occasion only his name is mentioned, he must have been a zealous and prominent member of the Christian community, to judge from the fact that when a victim had to be chosen from among the apostles, who should be sacrificed to the animosity of the Jews, it was on James that the blow fell first. The brief notice is given in Acts xii. 1, 2. Eusebius (Hist. Eccl. ii. 9) has preserved for us from Clement of Alexandria the additional information that the accuser of the apostle “beholding his confession and moved thereby, confessed that he too was a Christian. So they were both led away to execution together; and on the road the accuser asked James for forgiveness. Gazing on him for a little while, he said, ‘Peace be with thee,’ and kissed him. And then both were beheaded together.”

The later, and wholly untrustworthy, legends which tell of the apostle’s preaching in Spain, and of the translation of his body to Santiago de Compostela, are to be found in the Acta Sanctorum (July 25), vi. 1-124; see also Mrs Jameson’s Sacred and Legendary Art, i. 230–241.

2. James, the son of Alphaeus. He also was one of the apostles, and is mentioned in all the four lists (Matt. x. 3; Mark iii. 18; Luke vi. 15; Acts i. 13) by this name. We know nothing further regarding him, unless we believe him to be the same as James “the little.”

3. James, the little. He is described as the son of a Mary (Matt, xxvii. 56; Mark xv. 40), who was in all probability the wife of Clopas (John xix. 25). And on the ground that Clopas is another form of the name Alphaeus, this James has been thought by some to be the same as 2. But the evidence of the Syriac versions, which render Alphaeus by Chalphai, while Clopas is simply transliterated Kleopha, makes it extremely improbable that the two names are to be identified. And as we have no better ground for finding in Clopas the Cleopas of Luke xxiv. 18, we must be content to admit that James the little is again an almost wholly unknown personality, and has no connexion with any of the other Jameses mentioned in the New Testament.

4. James, the father of Judas. There can be no doubt that in the mention of “Judas of James” in Luke vi. 16 the ellipsis should be supplied by “the son” and not as in the A.V. by “the brother” (cf. Luke iii. 1, vi. 14; Acts xii. 2, where the word ἀδελφός is inserted). This Judas, known as Thaddaeus by Matthew and Mark, afterwards became one of the apostles, and is expressly distinguished by St John from the traitor as “not Iscariot” (John xiv. 22).

5. James, the Lord’s brother. In Matt. xiii. 55 and Mark vi. 3 we read of a certain James as, along with Joses and Judas and Simon, a “brother” of the Lord. The exact nature of the relationship there implied has been the subject of much discussion. Jerome’s view (de vir. ill. 2), that the “brothers” were in reality cousins, “sons of Mary the sister of the Lord’s mother,” rests on too many unproved assumptions to be entitled to much weight, and may be said to have been finally disposed of by Bishop Lightfoot in his essay on “The Brothers of the Lord” (Galatians, pp. 252 sqq., Dissertations on the Apostolic Age, pp. 1 sqq.). Even however if we understand the word “brethren” in its natural sense, it may be applied either to the sons of Joseph by a former wife, in which case they would be the step-brothers of Jesus, or to sons born to Joseph and Mary after the birth of Jesus. The former of these views, generally known as the Epiphanian view from its most zealous advocate in the 4th century, can claim for its support the preponderating voice of tradition (see the catena of references given by Lightfoot, loc. cit., who himself inclines to this view). On the other hand the Helvidian theory as propounded by Helvidius, and apparently accepted by Tertullian (cf. adv. Marc. iv. 29), which makes James a brother of the Lord, as truly as Mary was his mother, undoubtedly seems more in keeping with the direct statements of the Gospels, and also with the after history of the brothers in the Church (see W. Patrick, James the Brother of the Lord, 1906, p. 5). In any case, whatever the exact nature of James’s antecedents, there can be no question as to the important place which he occupied in the early Church. Converted to a full belief in the living Lord, perhaps through the special revelation that was granted to him (1 Cor. xv. 7), he became the recognized head of the Church at Jerusalem (Acts xii. 17, xv. 13, xxi. 18), and is called by St Paul (Gal. ii. 9), along with Peter and John, a “pillar” of the Christian community. He was traditionally the author of the epistle in the New Testament which bears his name (see James, Epistle of). From the New Testament we learn no more of the history of James the Lord’s brother, but Eusebius (Hist. Eccl. ii. 23) has preserved for us from Hegesippus the earliest ecclesiastical traditions concerning him. By that authority he is described as having been a Nazarite, and on account of his eminent righteousness called “Just” and “Oblias.” So great was his influence with the people that he was appealed to by the scribes and Pharisees for a true and (as they hoped) unfavourable judgment about the Messiahship of Christ. Placed, to give the greater publicity to his words, on a pinnacle of the temple, he, when solemnly appealed to, made confession of his faith, and was at once thrown down and murdered. This happened immediately before the siege. Josephus (Antiq. xx. 9, 1) tells that it was by order of Ananus the high priest, in the interval between the death of Festus and the arrival of his successor Albinus, that James was put to death; and his narrative gives the idea of some sort of judicial examination, for he says that along with some others James was brought before an assembly of judges, by whom they were condemned and delivered to be stoned. Josephus is also cited by Eusebius (Hist. Eccl. ii. 23) to the effect that the miseries of the siege were due to divine vengeance for the murder of James. Later writers describe James as an ἐπίσκοπος (Clem. Al. apud Eus. Hist. Ecc. ii. 1) and even as an ἐπίσκοπος ἐπισκόπων (Clem. Hom., ad init.). According to Eusebius (Hist. Eccl. vii. 19) his episcopal chair was still shown at Jerusalem at the time when Eusebius wrote.

Bibliography.—In addition to the relevant literature cited above, see the articles under the heading “James” in Hastings’s Dictionary of the Bible (Mayor) and Dictionary of Christ and the Gospels (Fulford), and in the Encycl. Biblica (O. Cone); also the introductions to the Commentaries on the Epistle of James by Mayor and Knowling. Zahn has an elaborate essay on Brüder und Vettern Jesu (“The Brothers and Cousins of Jesus”) in the Forschungen zur Geschichte des neutestamentlichen Kanons, vi. 2 (Leipzig, 1900).  (G. Mi.)