James (Son of Alphaeus), St.
JAMES (SON OF ALPHAEUS), ST.
One of the 12 Apostles. In all four lists of the Apostles (Mt 10.3; Mk 3.18; Lk 6.15; and Acts 1.13) he is mentioned in ninth place, before Thaddeus in Matthew and Mark, before Simon in Luke and Acts. An ancient tradition has identified this James with James the Less of Mk 15.40; 16.1; Mt 27.56; Lk 24.10. Thus the title ὁ μικρός (the less; literally, the little one) came to be transferred to James of Alphaeus. It should be noted that the expression ὁ μικρός refers either to size or to age rather than to relative importance.
Tradition has also continued the process of identification by making "Mary [the mother] of James" the same as "Mary [the wife] of Cleopas" in Jn 19.25. The difficulty arising from the identification of Alphaeus and Cleopas is ordinarily answered by saying that they are equivalents of the same Aramaic name or that they are simply two names belonging to the same person. In this case James of Alphaeus would be James the brother (i.e., relative) of the Lord, for Mary of Clopas is called the sister (relative) of Mary the mother of Jesus in Jn 19.25. This series of identifications has remained the more widespread opinion among Catholics.
However, a number of recent scholars prefer to stress the fact that the New Testament maintains a distinction between the Apostles and the brethren of the Lord (Mk6.3; Mt 13.55). James the brother of the Lord is mentioned in Gal 1.19 and is to be identified with James of Jerusalem (Acts 12.17; 15.13; 21.18; Gal 2.9, 12; 1 Cor 15.7). According to the Gospels, the twelve had already been chosen when Jesus' brethren manifested their unbelief (Mk 3.21; Jn 7.3); in Mk 6.3 the latter were still living in Nazareth. In Acts 1.14 and 1 Cor 15.7 a distinction is drawn between the Twelve and the brethren.
The passage in Gal 2.9, where Paul lists "James and Cephas and John" as pillars of the Church, can be understood in the light of Gal 1.19; the Greek εἰ μή, which the Vulgate translates as nisi, can have also the adversative meaning of "but only." Given the position of James of Jerusalem in the early Church, he would not have had to be an Apostle in order to be considered a "pillar."
Both Flavius Josephus (Ant. 20.9.1) and Hegesippus (in Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 2.23) tell of the martyrdom of James of Jerusalem, and thus perhaps of James of Alphaeus. According to Josephus he was stoned to death in a.d. 62; according to Hegesippus he was cast from the pinnacle of the Temple, c. a.d. 66, and when the fall did not kill him, he was clubbed to death. The canonical Epistle of James is to be attributed to James the brother of the Lord, whether or not he is identified with James of Alphaeus.
In the Byzantine rite, James of Jerusalem and James of Alphaeus have separate feasts: October 23 and 9 respectively. In the Roman rite they have long (but not always) been identified; the feast of St. James (along with St. Philip) occurs on May 1. It is common to both the Gelasian and the Gregorian Sacramentaries and can be traced back to c. a.d. 563. In ecclesiastical art St. James is represented with a club or a heavy staff, the instrument of his martyrdom.
Bibliography: h. leclercq, Dictionnaire d'archéologie chrétienne et de liturgie. ed. f. cabrol, h. leclercq and h. i. marrou (Paris 1907–53) 7.2:2109–16. j. bonsirven, Dictionnaire de la Bible, suppl. ed. l. pirot, et al. (Paris 1928–) 4:783–795. f. maier, "Zur Apostolizität des Jakobus und Judas," Biblische Zeitschrift 4 (1906) 164–191, 255–266. a. malvy, "S. Jacques de Jérusalem était-il un des douze?" Recherches de science religieuse 9 (1918) 122–131. f. haase, "Apostel und Evangelisten in den orientalischen Überlieferungen," Neutestamentliche Abhandlungen 9 (1922) 267–271. s. lyonnet, "Témoignages de S. Jean Chrysostome et de S. Jérome sur Jacques le frère du Seigneur," Recherches de science religieuse 29 (1939) 335–351. l. cerfaux, La Communauté apostolique (3d ed. Paris 1956) 90–99. a. charue, Les Épîtres catholiques in La Sainte Bible, ed. l. pirot and a. clamer, 12 v. (Paris 1935–61) 12:381–392.
[j. a. lefranÇois]