Lesson 1: The James’ of the Gospels
The name “James” appears frequently in gospel narratives. There are three separate James’ mentioned amidst the early church in Jerusalem: James, the Son of Zebedee; James the Less; and James the righteous. Correct interpretation of which James is being mentioned when discerning Scripture is imperative.
James, the Son of Zebedee
James was the son of righteous parents, Zebedee and Salome, who lived on the shore of Galilee, consecrating their industry with piety and educating their children through honest toll manly virtue. James’ entire family was involved in the ministry of Jesus. Zebedee, father of James and John, was a well-known businessman and possibly a financial contributor to Jesus’ ministry. Salome, the wife of Zebedee, was an active follower of Christ. James and John, the sons of Zebedee, became two of the three “inner apostles” and were counted within the called twelve apostles.
James' father was Zebedee, whom some presume resided “in Bethsaida or Capernaum.” Peterson states, “Zebedee and his two sons operated a thriving fishing business on the Sea of Galilee in partnership with another set of renowned brothers, Andrew and Phillip (Luke 5:7-10).” It is surmised that Zebedee was a “man of influence” because “he marketed some of his choice produce among the elite in Jerusalem (John 18: 16).” Additionally, we find in Mark 1:19-20 that the sons left their father “with the hired servants” in the boat to follow Jesus. James mother, Salome, is mentioned with frequency in Scripture: requesting prominence for her two sons (Mt. 20:24; Mk. 10:35-41); as an eyewitness of Jesus’ crucifixion (Mk. 5:40); and involvement in bringing spices to Jesus’ tomb for the anointment of His body. A comparison of Matthew 27:56 with Mark 15:40 identify the mother of James and John as Salome and possibly the sister of Jesus’ mother, Mary. Ross states, “Many infer from John 19:25 that she was the sister of Mary, the Lord’s mother.” Provided this inference is accurate that would mean, “James and John were first cousins to the Lord.”
Lastly, we have the younger brother of James, Apostle John (Mt. 10:2). John is the “human author of a gospel…that bears his name” and likely of the Book of Revelation.” John was also: a “frequent companion of Peter in the first twelve chapters of Acts”; a member of the “Lord’s most intimate inner circle”; and a major “role player in the early church.”
The character of James the greater was considered by many to be somewhat boisterous and rough in nature. The name James is a Greek translation of the Hebrew word (Iakobos, Latin Jacobus) which means supplanter.” Additionally, Jesus gave James and John the Greek name “Boanerges” which means “sons of thunder” (Mark 3:17). Mark provides the sole usage of this term and Thayer defines it as: “The name seems to denote fiery and destructive zeal that may be likened to a...