Examining the men called James in the Bible
The word “James” comes from the Greek word Iakobos and is used 42 times in the New Testament. Out of these 42 times there are four different men named James. Let’s begin with the most obscure James.
Our first man called James is referred to as Judas Iscariot’s father (Lk. 6:16;Acts 1:13 KJV says James is Judas brother). This is all we really know about this man.
Our second man called James is referred to as the son of Alphaeus (Mt.
John 19:25 Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.
Some scholars believe that the word “Clopas” is another name for Alphaeus. If this is the case, then this would mean they are indeed husband and wife and James the less is their son. If these are two different men, it doesn’t really matter in the over all scheme of things. In either case we know very little about this James.
Our third James, who is also an apostle, is referred to as the son of
Zebedee and is usually mentioned with John his brother (Mt.
Our fourth man named James was the half brother of Jesus (Mt.
Now that we have examined these four men that are called James, we need to
turn our attention to some passages in Acts and Galatians that refer to James. I believe logic will show us that the James
being referred to in these passages are all talking about Jesus half brother. In Acts 15 certain Jews began to say that the
gentiles had to be circumcised in order to be saved and Paul disagreed. So, they were sent
We can logically narrow down which of the four men named James are most likely being refereed to in these verses. First, we can eliminate Judas father. Second we can eliminate James the son of Zebedee considering he was killed (Acts 12:2) before any of these of events happened. We can also eliminate James the son Alphaeus or son of Mary based on the fact that ever time he is mentioned in the gospels he is always referred to as the son of Alphaeus or the son of Mary. There was always a distinction made so that no one was confused on which apostle James was being talked about. Not to mention the fact we only see this James mentioned in the gospels. This James fits the time scale perfectly and the early writers such as Josephus and Hegesippus confirm that Jesus half brother was a man who stood out in the community and was martyred for proclaiming Jesus as the son of God. All these things strongly imply that James the half brother of Jesus is the man being spoken of in these passages. He also fits perfectly as being the author of James. Finally, the book of Jude ascribed to Jesus other half brother Jude says this “Jude, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James ...” (Jude 1:1). It almost like Jude is using his brother James for validation. Once again, the best man that would fit this description is Jesus half brother.
It’s always interesting to dig into the Word of God and study out such topics as these. I hope that this study has been helpful and will encourage you to study even more.
Acts 17:11 These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. (Please note that all scripture references are from the NKJ.)