Skip to main content

James (Son of Zebedee), St.


One of the 12 Apostles and the brother of the Apostle John (Mt 10.3; Mk 3.18; Lk 6.15; Acts 1.13; 12.2). His Greek name, άκωβος, represents the Hebrew ya'ăqōb (Jacob). Originally he was a fisherman of Galilee, and the narrative of his and John's call to the apostleship indicates that the family must have been fairly well-to-do when it mentions hired men working along with them (Mt4.21; Mk 1.1920; Lk 5.10). James of Zebedee is commonly called "the Greater," as opposed to James of Alphaeus, traditionally known as James the Less, but the New Testament does not give him this title. [see james (son of alphaeus), st.] By comparing Mt 27.56 with Mk 15.40 it is deduced that the mother of James and John was Salome (Mt 20.2021). In Mk 3.17 these two Apostles are given the name Boanerges (Βοανηργές), which the same verse translates as "sons of thunder." Whatever its precise meaning, the translation given may be explained by the impetuosity shown by these two brothers toward a certain Samaritan town (Lk 9.54). Along with Peter and John, James was a member of the special group of three mentioned in Mk 5.37; 13.3; Mt 17.1; 26.37. He was the first of the Apostles to die for Christ, being beheaded under Herod Agrippa in 44 (Acts 12. 12).

This might indicate that James was exceptionally active in Jerusalem. Tradition places James's journey to Spain sometime between the death of Jesus and the martyrdom of James, but the reality of such a visit is opposed to St. Paul's words in Rom 15.2024. The apocryphal Greek Acts of James cannot be traced back earlier than the eighth century. The genuineness of the relics at santi ago de compostela, his famous shrine in Spain, is seriously disputed despite the fact that Pope Leo XIII referred to them as authentic in his bull Omnipotens Deus in 1884. In ecclesiastical art he is ordinarily represented carrying a pilgrim's bell.

Feast: July 25 (Roman rite); April 30 (Byzantine rite).

Bibliography: v. ermoni, Dictionnaire de la Bible, ed. f. vigourooux (Paris 18951912) 3.2:108284. h. leclercq, Dictionnaire d'archéologie chrétienne et de liturgie. ed. f. cabrol, h. leclercq and h. i. marrou (Paris 190753) 5.1:412417;7.2:20892109. a. wikenhauser, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner (Freiberg 195765) 5:833834. f. haase, Apostel und Evangelisten in den orientalischen Ueberlieferungen (Neutestamentliche Abhandlungen 9; Münster 1922). P. JOÜON, "Notes de philologie évangélique," Recherches de science religieuse 15 (1925) 438441.

[j. a. lefranÇois]

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"James (Son of Zebedee), St.." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . 16 Feb. 2019 <>.

"James (Son of Zebedee), St.." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . (February 16, 2019).

"James (Son of Zebedee), St.." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Retrieved February 16, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.