Those James Boys

It seems impossible that every human being, whether now living or dead or as yet unborn, might have a name that is uniquely his own; a name that is never given to any other child. Let's face it, even in a relatively small society, a list of never before used names eventually would be emptied. Parents choose names for their newborn children according to criteria that they establish. Kids today might be named after heroes, relatives, athletes, movie stars or just about any other person or thing you might imagine. It was no different in New Testament times, except that namesakes often had to do with attributes or promises of God. A number of people in the same town , even the same family, might share a name in common.

When studying the Scriptures, at times it can be difficult to identify which of a number of persons with the same name is involved in the passage under consideration. The exegete must take care that, in his study, he does not confuse individuals of the same name. Failure to do so could lead to confusion and a flawed interpretation.

Take the James boys. In the New Testament, we are introduced to four different men bearing that name. One of them, James the father of Judas, is twice mentioned as being the father of one of the disciples (Luke 6:16; Acts 1:13). That's all we know about him.

Then, there's James, the son of Alphaeus (Matthew 10:3; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:15; Acts 1:13), who was one of the Twelve. In Mark 15:40, he is referred to as James the Less. Except that he was one of the Apostles, that's about all we know of him. A few scholars have attempted to identify this James with Lord's brother (Galatians 1:19), but this identification is difficult to sustain in the face of the Gospels.

The third James was the son of Zebedee and the brother of John (Matthew 4:21; 10:2; 17:1; Mark 3:17; 10:35; 13:3; Luke 9:54; Acts 1:13). This James was one of the “inner circle” of the Twelve, and close to Jesus. He was martyred in AD 44 (Acts 12:2).

The fourth James was the brother of Jesus (Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3; Galatians 1:19). He was one of the pillars of the church at Jerusalem. Scripture strongly suggests that James was the first overseer (bishop) of the church at Jerusalem, rather than Peter as Catholicism claims. (Acts 12:17; 15:13-21; 21:18; Galatians 2:9, 12). Some would argue that he was Joseph's son by a previous marriage, but the most natural understanding of the Gospels is that James was the half-brother of Jesus, being the child of Joseph and Mary after the birth of Jesus (Matthew 1:24-25). Apparently, James did not believe Jesus' divinity until the Lord appeared to him after His resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:7). He was with his brothers and other believers in the upper room, as they waited for the coming of the Holy Spirit on that wonderful Day of Pentecost when the true church was established.

Just some things to think about.

Home | The Papacy | Catholic Stuff | PTG Forum