james Summary and Overview
james in Easton's Bible Dictionary
(1.) The son of Zebedee and Salome; an elder brother of John the apostle. He was one of the twelve. He was by trade a fisherman, in partnership with Peter (Matt. 20:20; 27:56). With John and Peter he was present at the transfiguration (Matt. 17:1; Mark 9:2), at the raising of Jairus's daughter (Mark 5:37-43), and in the garden with our Lord (14:33). Because, probably, of their boldness and energy, he and John were called Boanerges, i.e., "sons of thunder." He was the first martyr among the apostles, having been beheaded by King Herod Agrippa (Acts 12:1, 2), A.D. 44. (Compare Matt. 4:21; 20:20-23). (2.) The son of Alphaeus, or Cleopas, "the brother" or near kinsman or cousin of our Lord (Gal. 1:18, 19), called James "the Less," or "the Little," probably because he was of low stature. He is mentioned along with the other apostles (Matt. 10:3; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:15). He had a separate interview with our Lord after his resurrection (1 Cor. 15:7), and is mentioned as one of the apostles of the circumcision (Acts 1:13). He appears to have occupied the position of head of the Church at Jerusalem, where he presided at the council held to consider the case of the Gentiles (Acts 12:17; 15:13-29: 21:18-24). This James was the author of the epistle which bears his name.
james in Smith's Bible Dictionary
(the Greek form of Jacob, supplanter). 1. James the son of Zebedee, one of the twelve apostles. He was elder brother of the evangelist John. His mother's name was Salome. We first hear of him in A.D. 27, #Mr 1:20| when at the call of the Master he left all, and became, one and forever, his disciple, in the spring of 28. #Mt 10:2; Mr 3:14; Lu 6:13; Ac 1:13| It would seem to have been at the time of the appointment of the twelve apostles that the name of Boanerges was given to the sons of Zebedee. The "sons of thunder" had a burning and impetuous spirit, which twice exhibits itself. #Mr 10:37; Lu 9:54| On the night before the crucifixion James was present at the agony in the garden. On the day of the ascension he is mentioned as persevering with the rest of the apostles and disciples, in prayer. #Ac 1:13| Shortly before the day of the Passover, in the year 44, he was put to death by Herod Agrippa I. #Ac 12:1,2| 2. James the son of Alpheus, one of the twelve apostles. #Mt 10:3| Whether or not this James is to be identified with James the Less, the son of Alphaeus, the brother of our Lord, is one of the most difficult questions in the gospel history. By comparing #Mt 27:56| and Mark 15:40 with John 19:25 we find that the Virgin Mary had a sister named, like herself, Mary, who was the wife of Clopas or Alpheus (varieties of the same name), and who had two sons, James the Less and Joses. By referring to #Mt 13:55| and Mark 6:3 we find that a James the Less and Joses, with two other brethren called Jude and Simon, and at least three sisters, were sisters with the Virgin Mary at Nazareth by referring to #Lu 6:16| and Acts 1:13 we find that there were two brethren named James and Jude among the apostles. It would certainly be natural to think that we had here but one family of four brothers and three or more sisters, the children of Clopas and Mary, nephews and nieces of the Virgin Mary. There are difficulties however, in the way of this conclusion into which we cannot here enter; but in reply to the objection that the four brethren in #Mt 13:55| are described as the brothers of Jesus, not as his cousins, it must be recollected that adelphoi, which is here translated "brethren," may also signify cousins.
james in Schaff's Bible Dictionary
JAMES (the same as "Jacob," the supplanter). 1. James the Elder, one of the three favorite apostles, a son of Zebedee and Salome, and a brother of John the evangelist. With Peter and John, he was present at the raising of Jairus's daughter, the transfiguration, and the agony in Gethsemane. He was beheaded by order of King Herod Agrippa, and became the first martyr among the apostles, a.d. 44, thus fulfilling our Saviour's prediction concerning the baptism of blood. Matt 4:21; Matt 20:20-23; Ex 26:37; Mark 1:19-20; Mark 10:35; Acts 12:2. His apostolic labors seem not to have extended beyond Jerusalem and Judaea. Clement of Alexandria relates that the accuser of James on the way to the place of execution, stung by remorse, confessed faith and asked forgiveness; whereupon James said to him, "Peace be with thee!" gave him a brotherly kiss, and had him for a companion in martyrdom. His place was filled partly by James the brother of the Lord, partly by Paul. 1. James the Less, or the Little, also one of the twelve apostles, a son of Alpheus and Mary. Mark 15:40; Mark 16:1; Matt 10:3; Matt 27:56; Acts 1:13. He labored, according to the tradition of the Greek Church (which distinguishes him from James, the brother of the Lord), in the south-western part of Palestine, afterward in Egypt, and was crucified in Lower Egypt. He is regarded by many as a cousin of Jesus. 1. James, "the brother of the Lord," Gal 1:19; comp. Matt 13:55; Mark 6:3, or simply James, Acts 12:17; Acts 15:13; Gen 21:18; Gal 2:9; 1 Cor 15:7. By ecclesiastical writers he is also called James "the Just" and "the bishop of Jerusalem." Commentators are divided as to his relation to James the Less. Some identify him with the younger apostle of that name, and regard him simply as a cousin of Jesus, while others distinguish the two, and understand the designation "brother of the Lord" in the strict sense either of a uterine brother or a half-brother of Jesus. See Brother and Brethren of Jesus. It is certain, from the Acts of the Apostles, that this James, after the dispersion of the disciples and the departure of Peter, Acts 12:17, occupied the most prominent position in the church of Jerusalem, and stood at the head of the Jewish converts. He presided at the apostolic council, and proposed the compromise which prevented a split between the Jewish and the Gentile sections of the church. Acts 15 and Gal 2. He stood mediating between the old and the new dispensations, and conformed very nearly to the Jewish traditions and temple-service as long as there was any hope of a national conversion. He stood in high repute even among the Jews, but nevertheless was (according to Josephus) sentenced to be stoned by the Sanhedrin, a.d. 62. Hegesippus, an historian of the second century, puts his martyrdom later, A.D. 69, shortly before the destruction of Jerusalem, and adds that he was thrown by the Pharisees from the pinnacle of the temple, and then despatched with a fuller's club while on his knees, in the act of praying for his murderers. Epistle of James, "a servant (not an apostle) of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ," the same who is also called "the brother of the Lord." It is one of the catholic or general Epistles, and consists of five chapters. The design of the Epistle is, (1) To correct errors into which the Jewish Christians had fallen, especially relating to justification by faith; (2) To animate their hope, and strengthen their faith, in view of afflictions felt and feared; and (3) To excite the unbelieving Jews to repentance toward God and faith in the rejected Messiah. It is remarkable that the name of our blessed Lord occurs but twice in this Epistle, but with great reverence as the divine Master, Jas 1:1, and as "the Lord of glory." Ruth 2:1. The gospel is described as the perfect law of freedom. The Epistle strongly resembles the preaching of John the Baptist and the Sermon on the Mount. The main stress is laid on works rather than faith. It enforces an eminently practical Christianity which manifests itself in good fruits. Its doctrine of justification, ch. Jas 2, apparently conflicts with that of Paul, Rom 3-4, but in reality the two apostles supplement each other, and guard each other against abuse and excess. James opposes a dead orthodoxy, an unfruitful theoretical belief, and insists on practical demonstration of faith, while Paul, in opposition to Pharisaical legalism and self-righteousness, exhibits a living faith in Christ as the principle and root of all good works. The one judges the tree by its fruit, the other proceeds from the root. The Epistle of James was written before a.d. 62, perhaps much earlier, probably from Jerusalem, the scene of his labors, and is addressed to the twelve tribes scattered abroad, Jas 1:1 -that is, either to all the Jews of the Dispersion, or only to the Jewish Christians, as to the true spiritual Israel. The style is lively, vigorous, and impressive. What kindling words on patience in suffering, joy in sorrow, heavenly wisdom, the power of prayer as the most certain unfailing thing, from deep personal experience! There is a resemblance between the Epistle and the pastoral letter of the Council of Jerusalem, which was no doubt written by the same James as the presiding officer; both have the Greek form of "greeting," Acts 15:23; Jas 1:1, which otherwise does not occur in the N.T. or is changed into "grace and peace." This is an incidental proof of the genuineness of the Epistle. The theory recently advocated by Bassett (Commentary on fhe Catholic Epistle of St. James, London, 1876), that it was written by the elder James, the son of Zebedee, before a.d. 44, has little to support it. He assumes that the Epistle was addressed to all the Jews of the dispersion with the view to convert them by a moral rather than doctrinal exhibition of Christianity.
james in Fausset's Bible Dictionary
"Jacob" in Greek; the name appearing in our Lord's apostles and contemporaries for the first time since the patriarch. Son of Zebedee, brother of John. Their father's "hired servants" and fishing vessel imply some degree of competence. John probably was the one with Andrew (John 1:35-41), who, on John the Baptist's pointing to the Lamb of God, followed Jesus. The words Andrew "first findeth his own brother Simon" imply that John secondly found and called his own brother James to Jesus, or vice versa. Some months later the Lord saw Zebedee, James, and John, in the ship mending their nets. At His call James and John "immediately left the ship and their father and followed Him"(Matthew 4:22). Their L EAVING T HEIR F ATHER "W ITH T HE H IRED servants"(Mark 1:20, a minute particular, characteristic of Mark' s vivid style and his knowledge through Peter of all which happened)was not an unfilial act, which it would have been if he had no helpers. The next call was after an unsuccessful night's fishing, when the fishermen had gone out of their ships and had washed (Luke 5:2, Vaticanus and Cambridge manuscripts read eplunon , "were washing"; the Sinaiticus and Paris manuscripts have epifainoo ) their nets; Jesus entering one of the ships, Simon's, prayed him to thrust out a little from land, and preached. Then rewarding his loan of the ship, He desired Simon, Launch out into the deep, and do ye let down your nets for a draught. At Christ's word, however unlikely to reason, he let down, and enclosed so many fish that the net broke; and the partners in the other ship came to his help, and they filled both ships so that they began to sink. Astonished at the miracle, yet encouraged by His further promise to Simon, "henceforth thou shalt catch men," the three forsook not merely their "nets" as before, but "all," and followed Him. In fact the successive calls were: (1) to friendly acquaintance (John 1:37); (2) to intimacy (Matthew 4:18); (3) to permanent discipleship (Luke 5:11); (4) (toward the close of the first year of our Lord's ministry) to apostleship (Matthew 10:1); (5) to renewed self dedication, even unto death (John 21:15-22). In Matthew and Luke (Luke 6:14), of the four catalogs of see APOSTLES , Andrew follows Peter on the ground of brotherhood. In Mark (3:16) and Acts (1:13) James and John precede Andrew on the ground of greater nearness to Jesus. These four head the twelve; and Andrew is at the foot of the four. Peter, James, and John alone witnessed the raising of Jairus' daughter (Mark 5:37); also the transfiguration (Matthew 17:1); also the agony (26:37). The four asked our Lord "privately" when His prediction of the temple's overthrow should be fulfilled, and what should be the sign (Mark 13:3). In Luke 9:28 (the transfiguration) alone John precedes James. By the time that Luke wrote John was recognized as on a level with James, yet not above him, as Luke in Acts 1:13 has the order, "James, John," but in 12:2 Luke calls James brother of John, who by that time had become the more prominent. James was probably the elder brother, whence John is twice called "brother of James" (Mark 5:37; Matthew 17:1). No official superiority was given, for no trace of it occurs in New Testament; it was the tacitly recognized leadership which some took above the others. James and John were called see BOANERGES to express their natural character and the grace which would purify and ennoble it, making James the first apostle martyr and John the apostle of love. Their fiery zeal in its untempered state appeared in their desiring to call fire from heaven to consume the Samaritans. These would not receive Jesus when He sent messengers to make ready for Him (i.e. to announce His Messiahship, which He did not conceal in Samaria as in Judaea and Galilee: John 4:26, Luke 9:54), because His face was as though He would go to Jerusalem, whereas they expected the Messiah would confirm their anti-Jewish worship in the mount Gerizim temple. James and John "saw" some actual collision between the Samaritans and the messengers who were sent before and whom our Lord and His apostles followed presently; just as Elijah in the same Samaria had called for fire upon the offenders face to face (2 Kings 1:10,12). In Luke 9:55,56, "ye know not what manner of spirit ye are (not the fiery judicial spirit which befitted Elijah's times, but the spirit of love so as to win men to salvation, is the spirit of Me and Mine), for the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives but to save them," is not in Alex., Vat., and. Sin.manuscripts The same John subsequently (Acts 8:14-17) came down with Peter to confer the Spirit's gifts on Samaritan believers. What miracles in renewing the heart does the gospel work! Salome the mother of Zebedee's children, impressed by Christ's promise that the twelve should sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel, begged, and her two sons joined in the prayer, that they might sit one on His right the other on His left hand in His glory (Mark 10:35-37). They prefaced it with pleading His own promise, "Master, we would that Thou shouldest do for us whatsoever we shall desire"(Matthew 7:7; Luke 11:9; Mark 11:24). Perhaps jealousy of Peter and Andrew, their rivals for the nearest place to Him, actuated them (Matthew 20:20-24). He told them that they should drink of His cup (Sin. and Vat. manuscripts omit in verse 22,23 the clause as to the "baptism") of suffering (Acts 12:1,2; James; Revelation 1:9; John), but to sit on His right and left, said He, come again on the clouds of heaven." Many cried "Hosanna to the Son of David." But James was cast down by the Pharisees. Praying, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do," he was stoned in spite of the remonstrance of a Rechabite priest ("Stop! the just one is praying for you!"), then beaten to death with a fuller's club. Thus the Jews wreaked their vengeance on him, exasperated at his prophecy of their national doom in his epistle, which was circulated not only in Jerusalem but by those who came up to the great feasts, among "the twelve tribes scattered abroad" to whom it is addressed. James was probably married (1 Corinthians 9:5). Josephus makes Ananus, the high priest after Festus' death, to have brought J. before the Sanhedrin for having broken the laws, and to have delivered him and some others to be stoned. In Hebrews 13:7 there may be allusion to James'martyrdom, "Remember them which had (not have) the rule (spiritually) over you, (Hebrews, over whom he presided) who have spoken unto you the word of God, whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation" (their life walk). If this be the allusion, the Epistle to Hebrews was probably A.D. 68, and James's martyrdom A.D. 62. His apprehension by Ananus was very probably in this year; but according to Hegesippus he was not martyred until just before the destruction of Jerusalem, A.D. 69, to which, as near, Hebrews 5:1 may refer.