James, son of Alphaeus

James, son of Alphaeus

Infobox Saint
name=Saint James, son of Alphaeus
feast_day=May 3 (Roman Catholic Church)
May 1 pre-1955 General Roman Calendar
11 May General Roman Calendar, 1955-1969
venerated_in=Roman Catholic Church

caption="Statue of St James at the Church of the Mafra Palace, Portugal"
death_place=Egypt or Jerusalem
attributes=carpenter's saw; fuller's club; book
patronage=apothecaries; druggists; dying people; Frascati, Italy; fullers; hatmakers; hatters; milliners; Monterotondo, Italy; Nemi, Italy; pharmacists; Uruguay [ [http://www.catholic-forum.com/saints/saintj10.htm Catholic Forum Patron Saints Index: James the Lesser] ]

James, son of Alphaeus was one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus of Nazareth. He is generally identified with James the Less, and is more commonly known by that name in church tradition. [He is also labelled "the minor", "the little", "the lesser", or "the younger", according to translation.]

St James, the son of Alphaeus is rarely mentioned in the New Testament, but he is sometimes identified with James the Just, an important leader in the New Testament church. He is clearly distinguished from James, son of Zebedee, another one of the Twelve Apostles.


Possible identity of James son of Alphaeus and James the Less

James, son of Alphaeus, only appears four times in the New Testament, each time in a list of the twelve apostles. [bibleref|Matthew|10:3, bibleref|Mark|3:18, bibleref|Luke|1:13 and bibleref|Acts|1:13.]

St James the Less is only mentioned three times, each time in connection with his mother. bibleref|Mark|15:40 refers to "Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses", while bibleref|Mark|16:1 and bibleref|Matthew|27:56 refer to "Mary the mother of James".

Since there was already a more prominent 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 Great"). However, it also made it imperative to identify Clopas, the husband of Mary, with Alphaeus, the father of the Apostle James. [Clopas is only mentioned in bibleref|John|19:25; see the Clopas article. Some avoided this problem by identifying Clopas as Mary's father and Alphaeus as Mary's husband.] (For the argument on this, see Alphaeus.) This identification was accepted by early church leaders and, therefore, tradition knows him more commonly as Saint James the Less.

Modern Biblical scholars are divided on whether this identification is correct. John Paul Meier finds it unlikely. [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"] Amongst evangelicals, the "New Bible Dictionary" supports the traditional identification, [New Bible Dictionary, 2nd Edition (IVP 1982), "James" entry (by P.H.Davids)] while Don Carson ["The Expositor's Bible Commentary CDROM, commentary on Matthew (by Don Carson), commentary on Matthew 10:2-4] and Darrell Bock ["Luke", by Darrell Bock (Baker 1994), commentary on Luke 6:15] both regard the identification as possible, but not certain.

Possible identity with James the Just

James the Just (a brother or relative of Jesus) served for thirty years as head of the Church at Jerusalem and was killed in 62 AD. [Josephus, "Antiquities", 2.9.1] The identification of James son of Alphaeus with the brother of Jesus was supported by Jerome and therefore widely accepted in the Roman Catholic Church, [ [http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08280a.htm Catholic Encyclopedia: Saint James the Less] ] while Eastern Orthodox and Protestant churches tend to distinguish between "James son of Alphaeus" and "James the brother of the Lord".

Possible brother of Matthew

Another Alphaeus is also the name of the father of Matthew the Evangelist (also known as Levi) in bibleref|Mark|2:14 which has led some to conclude that James and Matthew might have been brothers. However, there is no Biblical account of the two being called brothers, even in the same context where John and James or Peter and Andrew are described as being brothers which suggests rather that the father of Matthew and the father of James simply shared the same name.


A tradition holds that St James, though strongly clinging to Jewish law, was sentenced to death for having violated the Torah. This however, is highly unlikely as the Jewish authorities did not practice crucifixion, and unless a possible rebellion was at hand, the Roman authority would not involve themselves in Jewish religious affairs. He is reported to have been martyred by crucifixion at Ostrakine in Lower Egypt, where he was preaching the Gospel. A carpenter's saw is the symbol associated with him in Christian art because it is also noted that his body was later sawed to pieces [ [http://latter-rain.com/ltrain/jamesle.htm James the Less] on the Latter Rain page, retrieved March 7, 2007. ]


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  • Alphaeus — is mentioned in the New Testament as the father of three of the Twelve Apostles, namely:*Matthew Levi the Apostle *James, son of Alphaeus *Jude Lebbaeus the ApostleAs the father of an Apostle James, he has been confused with Clopas, who through… …   Wikipedia

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  • James the Lord’s Brother — (first century)    Apostle.    James is mentioned in Mark 6:3, along with Simon, Jude and Joses, as being the brother of Jesus. The obvious interpretation is that James was a younger son of Joseph and mary. However, because the Church believes in …   Who’s Who in Christianity

  • James — A common name in the 1st cent. CE (‘Jakobos’ in Greek) and in the NT several men bear it: 1) A son of Zebedee and brother of John [[➝ John the Apostle]] (Mark 3:17) and one of the twelve [[➝ Twelve, the]]; with Simon Peter and John he was also… …   Dictionary of the Bible

  • James — noun /dʒeɪmz,ˈdʒeɪms/ a) A book of the New Testament of the Bible, the general epistle of James. Now the names of the twelve apostles are these; The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his …   Wiktionary

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