James the Less

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Statue of St. James the Less in the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran by Angelo de Rossi. Jacobus Minor San Giovanni in Laterano 2006-09-07.jpg
Statue of St. James the Less in the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran by Angelo de Rossi.

James the Less is a figure of early Christianity, one of the Twelve chosen by Jesus. He is also called "the Minor", "the Little", "the Lesser", or "the Younger", according to translation. He is not to be confused with James, son of Zebedee ("James the Great or Elder"). In the West he was for long (and still is) identified with James, the Lord's brother, thought of by St Jerome and those who followed him as really the cousin of Jesus. The sources offer no certainty. Most New Testament scholars now would reject that identification of St James the Less (one of the Twelve, though a fairly insignificant member) with St James, an actual brother of Jesus, and leader of the early Christian Jewish community. As a result, while St James the Less continues to be commemorated with St Philip on May 1st in the Western calendars, increasingly St James the Brother of the Lord has been included in those Calendars, on October 23rd, for example, in most recent Anglican calendars. Other views are noted below.

Early Christianity Christianity up to 325 CE

Early Christianity developed in the period from Christian origins to the First Council of Nicaea (325). Church historians typically subdivide this period into the Apostolic Age and the Ante-Nicene Period.

James, brother of Jesus Important figure in Early Christianity

James the Just, or a variation of James, brother of the Lord, was the brother of Jesus, according to the New Testament. He was an early leader of the Jerusalem Church of the Apostolic Age, to which Paul was also affiliated. He died in martyrdom in 62 or 69 AD.

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In the New Testament, the name "James" identifies multiple men. James the Less is named only in connection with his mother "Mary", who is also the mother of Joseph, who is called Joses by Mark (Joseph and Joses are variants of the same name [note 1] ). There are four mentions:

New Testament Second division of the Christian biblical canon

The New Testament is the second part of the Christian biblical canon, the first being the Old Testament. The New Testament discusses the teachings and person of Jesus, as well as events in first-century Christianity. Christians regard both the Old and New Testaments together as sacred scripture.

Joses is a name, usually regarded as a form of Joseph, occurring many times in the New Testament:

This "Mary" may have been Mary of Clopas, mentioned only in John 19:25. It is unlikely to be Mary the mother of Jesus since she is not identified as Jesus' mother but only called the mother of James the Less and Joseph/Joses. In Matthew 27:56 she is clearly distinguished from the mother of James, son of Zebedee.

Mary of Clopas wife of Clopas

Mary of Clopas, was one of the women present at the crucifixion of Jesus and bringing supplies for his funeral. The expression Mary of Clopas in the Greek text is ambiguous as to whether Mary was the daughter or wife of Clopas, but exegesis has commonly favoured the reading "wife of Clopas". Hegesippus identified Clopas as a brother of Saint Joseph. In the Roman Martyrology she is remembered with Saint Salome on April 24.

Identification as James the brother of Jesus

Saint James the Less, as depicted in the Menologion of Basil II (c. 1000 AD) Saint James the Less (Menologion of Basil II).jpg
Saint James the Less, as depicted in the Menologion of Basil II (c. 1000 AD)

James the Less is identified with James the brother of Jesus. Jerome concluded that James "the brother of the Lord" is the same as James the Less. To explain this, Jerome first tells that James the Less must be identified with James, the son of Alphaeus. [1] After that, James the Less being the same as James, the son of Alphaeus, Jerome describes in his work called De Viris Illustribus that James "the brother of the Lord" is the same as James, son of Alphaeus:

James, who is called the brother of the Lord, surnamed the Just, the son of Joseph by another wife, as some think, but, as appears to me, the son of Mary sister of the mother our Lord <Mary of Cleophas> of whom John makes mention in his book.(John 19:25) [2]

Thus, Jerome concludes that James the Less, James, son of Alphaeus and James the brother of Jesus are one and the same person.

According to the Golden Legend, which is a collection of hagiographies, compiled by Jacobus de Varagine in the thirteenth century:

James the Apostle is said the Less, how well that was the elder of age than was St. James the More. He was called also the brother of our Lord, because I have resembled much well our Lord in body, in visage, and of manner. He was called James the Just for his right great holiness. He was also called James the son of Alpheus. He sang in Jerusalem the first mass that ever was there, and he was first bishop of Jerusalem. [3]

The same work adds "Simon Cananean and Judas Thaddeus were brethren of James the Less and sons of Mary Cleophas, which was married to Alpheus." [4] [5]

Identification as James, the son of Alphaeus

Statue of Saint James the Minor, Apostle, at the church of the Mafra Palace, Portugal Mafra29.jpg
Statue of Saint James the Minor, Apostle, at the church of the Mafra Palace, Portugal

The title, "the Less", is used to differentiate James from other people named James. Since it means that he is either the younger or shorter of two, he seems to be compared to one other James. In the lists of the twelve apostles in the synoptic Gospels, there are two apostles called James, who are differentiated there by their fathers: James, son of Zebedee, and James, son of Alphaeus. Long-standing tradition identifies James, the son of Alphaeus, as James the Less. James, son of Zebedee, is then called "James the Great" (although that designation does not appear in the New Testament). Some propose that Alphaeus was the same man as Cleophas or at least the husband of Mary Clopas.

In this regard, Jerome identified James the Less with James, son of Alpheus writing in his work called The Perpetual Virginity of Blessed Mary the following:

Do you intend the comparatively unknown James the Less, who is called in Scripture the son of Mary, not however of Mary the mother of our Lord, to be an apostle, or not? If he is an apostle, he must be the son of Alphæus and a believer in Jesus, ‘For neither did his brethren believe in him.’

The only conclusion is that the Mary who is described as the mother of James the Less was the wife of Alphæus and sister of Mary the Lord's mother, the one who is called by John the Evangelist ‘Mary of Clopas‘. [6]

Papias of Hierapolis, who lived circa 70–163 AD, in the surviving fragments of his work Exposition of the Sayings of the Lord relates that Mary, wife of Alphaeus is mother of James the Less:

Mary, mother of James the Less and Joseph, wife of Alphaeus was the sister of Mary the mother of the Lord, whom John names of Cleophas. [7]

Therefore, James, son of Alphaeus would be the same as James the Less.

In Catholic tradition, James's mother is none other than Mary of Clopas who was among the women at the foot of the Cross of Jesus, weeping. For that reason, and given the fact that the Semitic word for brother is also used for other close relatives, James son of Alpheus is often held as a cousin to Jesus. He is also thought by some to be the brother of Matthew the Apostle, since the father of both was named Alphaeus (compare Mark 2:14 and 3:18).

Modern Biblical scholars are divided on whether this identification is correct. John Paul Meier finds it unlikely. [8] Amongst evangelicals, the New Bible Dictionary supports the traditional identification, [9] while Don Carson [10] and Darrell Bock [11] both regard the identification as possible, but not certain.

Notes

  1. See the Joses article.

Related Research Articles

Simon the Zealot apostle of Jesus

Simon the Zealot or Simon the Cananite or Simon the Cananaean was one of the most obscure among the apostles of Jesus. A few pseudepigraphical writings were connected to him, but Saint Jerome does not include him in De viris illustribus written between 392–393 AD.

Brothers of Jesus four men (James, Joseph/Joses, Judas, Simon) described as brothers of Jesus, along with unnamed sisters; in Christian denominations teaching the perpetual virginity of Mary, rationalized as half-siblings or other relatives

The New Testament describes James, Joseph (Joses), Judas (Jude), and Simon as brothers of Jesus. Also mentioned, but not named, are sisters of Jesus. Some scholars argue that these brothers, especially James, held positions of special honor in the early Christian church.

Cleopas 1st-century Christian and saint

Cleopas, also spelled Cleophas, was a figure of early Christianity, one of the two disciples who encountered Jesus during the Road to Emmaus appearance in Luke 24:13–32.

Perpetual virginity of Mary doctrine that Mary the mother of Jesus had never had sexual relations throughout her life; held by many Christian groups, including the Catholic Church

The perpetual virginity of Mary is a Marian doctrine, taught by the Catholic Church and held by a number of groups in Christianity, which asserts that Mary was "always a virgin, before, during and after the birth of Jesus Christ." This doctrine also proclaims that Mary had no marital relations after Jesus' birth nor gave birth to any children other than Jesus. While the Bible mentions brothers of Jesus, Catholic, Orthodox, and some traditional Protestant interpretations offer various explanations that align with the doctrine of Mary's perpetual virginity; that these siblings were either children of Joseph from a previous marriage, cousins of Jesus, or were closely associated with the Holy Family.

Salome (disciple) follower of Jesus

Salome was a follower of Jesus who appears briefly in the canonical gospels and in apocryphal writings. She is named by Mark as present at the crucifixion and as one of the women who found Jesus's tomb empty. Interpretation has further identified her with other women who are mentioned but not named in the canonical gospels. In particular, she is often identified as the wife of Zebedee, the mother of James and John, two of the Twelve apostles. In medieval tradition Salome was counted as one of the Three Marys who were daughters of Saint Anne, so making her the sister or half-sister of Mary, mother of Jesus.

Jude the Apostle one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus; traditionally identified with Jude the brother of Jesus

Jude, also known as Judas Thaddaeus, was one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus according to the New Testament. He is generally identified with Thaddeus, and is also variously called Jude of James, Jude Thaddaeus, Judas Thaddaeus or Lebbaeus. He is sometimes identified with Jude, the brother of Jesus, but is clearly distinguished from Judas Iscariot, the apostle who betrayed Jesus prior to his crucifixion. Catholic writer Michal Hunt suggests that Judas Thaddaeus became known as Jude after early translators of the New Testament from Greek into English sought to distinguish him from Judas Iscariot and subsequently abbreviated his forename. Most versions of the New Testament in languages other than English and French refer to Judas and Jude by the same name.

Clopas is a figure of early Christianity. The name appears in the New Testament, specifically in John 19:25:

Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.

Alphaeus is a man mentioned in the New Testament as the father of two of the Twelve Apostles, namely:

Simeon of Jerusalem Patriarch of Jerusalem

Simeon of Jerusalem, son of Clopas, was a Jewish Christian leader and according to most Christian traditions the second Bishop of Jerusalem.

Jude, brother of Jesus one of the four brothers of Jesus mentioned in the New Testament; traditionally identified with Judas Thaddeus the Apostle

Jude is one of the brothers of Jesus (Greek: ἀδελφοί, romanized: adelphoi, lit. 'brethren') according to the New Testament. He is traditionally identified as the author of the Epistle of Jude, a short epistle which is reckoned among the seven general epistles of the New Testament—placed after Paul's epistles and before the Book of Revelation—and considered canonical by Christians. Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians believe this Jude is the same person as Jude the Apostle and that Jude was perhaps a cousin, but not literally a brother of Jesus, or perhaps St. Joseph’s son from a previous marriage.

Matthew 27:55-56

Matthew 27:55-56 are the fifty-sixth and fifty-seventh verses of the twenty-seventh chapter of the Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament. The crucifixion and death of Jesus have just occurred, and these verses make note of a group of women who were present at that event.

James, son of Alphaeus one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ

James, son of Alphaeus was one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus, appearing under this name in all three of the Synoptic Gospels' lists of the apostles. He is often identified with James the Less 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. He is distinct from James, son of Zebedee and in some interpretations also from James, brother of Jesus. He appears only four times in the New Testament, each time in a list of the twelve apostles.

Mary, mother of James mother of James (the Less) and Joseph

Mary is identified in the synoptic gospels as one of the women who went to Jesus' tomb after he was buried. Mark 16:1 and Luke 24:10 refer to "Mary the mother of James" as one of the women who went to the tomb. Matthew 27:56 says that "Mary the mother of James and Joseph" was watching the crucifixion from a distance. Mark 15:40 calls her "Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses" (NKJV). Although James the younger is often identified with James, son of Alphaeus, the New Advent Encyclopedia identifies him with both James, son of Alphaeus and James the brother of Jesus.

<i>Holy Kinship</i> artistic theme, depicting the extended family of Jesus descended from his maternal grandmother Saint Anne, including John the Evangelist, James the Greater, James the Less, Simon and Jude

Holy Kinship was a popular theme in religious art throughout Germany and the Low Countries, especially during the late 15th and early 16th centuries. The Holy Kin were the extended family of Jesus descended from his maternal grandmother Saint Anne. According to this tradition, St. Anne, the mother of the Virgin Mary, was grandmother not just to Jesus but also to five of the twelve apostles: John the Evangelist, James the Greater, James the Less, Simon and Jude. These apostles, together with John the Baptist, were all cousins of Jesus. The genealogy holds that Anne’s sister, Hismeria, was the mother of John the Baptist’s mother Elizabeth and of a second child, Eliud, who was in turn the grandfather of Servatius of Tongeren.

The presence of a group of female disciples of Jesus at the crucifixion of Jesus is found in all four Gospels of the New Testament. There have been different interpretations how many and which women were present. It may be different from different gospels

New Testament people named Mary women named Mary in the New Testament: includes Mary, mother of Jesus; Mary Magdalene; Mary of Bethany, sister of Lazraus; Mary, mother of James the younger; Mary mother of John Mark; Mary of Rome

The name Mary appears 61 times in the New Testament, in 53 verses. It was the single most popular female name among Palestinian Jews of the time, borne by about one in five women, and most of the New Testament references to Mary provide only the barest identifying information. Scholars and traditions therefore differ as to how many distinct women these references represent and which of them refer to the same person.

References

Citations

  1. The Perpetual Virginity of Blessed Mary Fragment 15
  2. Jerome. De Viris Illustribus (On Illustrious Men) Chapter 2. newadvent.org. Retrieved 4 September 2015.
  3. Stracke, Richard. Golden Legend: Life of Saint James the Less . Retrieved 29 October 2018.
  4. de Voragine, Jacobus (1275). The Golden Legend or Lives Of The Saints . Retrieved 28 October 2018.
  5. Stracke, Richard. Golden Legend: Life of SS. Simon and Jude . Retrieved 28 October 2018.
  6. Jerome. "Fragment 15". The Perpetual Virginity of Blessed Mary. New advent. Retrieved 3 September 2015.
  7. of Hierapolis, Papias. Exposition of the Sayings of the Lord. Fragment X. earlychristianwritings.com. Retrieved 10 September 2015.
  8. 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."
  9. New Bible Dictionary, 2nd Edition (IVP 1982), "James" entry (by P.H.Davids)
  10. "The Expositor's Bible Commentary CDROM, commentary on Matthew (by Don Carson), commentary on Matthew 10:2-4
  11. Luke, by Darrell Bock (Baker 1994), commentary on Luke 6:15

Sources

  • James the Less: The Latter Rain Page
  • Eusebius, Historia Ecclesia
  • Who's Who in The New Testament, Ronals Brownrigg, Oxford University Press, 1993.
  • The 12, The Story of Christ's Apostles, Edgar J. Goodspeed, Holt, Rinehart and Winston
  • The Search for the Twelve Apostles, William Steuart McBirnie, Tyndale. pp. 183–194.

Major recent scholarly works include : Pierre-Antoine Bernheim, James, Brother of Jesus, Bruce Chilton and Jacob Neusner, ed., The Brother of Jesus : James the Just and his Mission, and John Painter, Just James, The Brother of Jesus in History and Tradition.