Monday, July 25, 2011

Keeping them straight: James the Greater and James the Less

St. James the Greater, of Compostela
July 25th, Feast of St. James the Greater
“St. James the Apostle, brother of blessed John the Evangelist, who was beheaded by Herod Agrippa about the time of the Paschal Feast, being the first of the Apostles to receive the crown of martyrdom. His sacred bones were translated on this day from Jerusalem to Spain, and buried in the furthest parts of that country, in Galicia, and are piously venerated with great honour by the people of that country, and by the mighty concourse of Christians who go thither to perform their religious duties and vows.” (from the Roman Martyrology)
Devout Catholics often feel a certain anxiety when a feast of one of the St. James-es occurs. We often wonder: Which James is this again? And what did that James do? And how many Jameses are there anyways?
There are, in fact, as many as five different Jameses presented in the Scripture – and to these, there are also many extra-canonical traditions regarding the Jameses. In this little article, we will not so much attempt to give all the scriptural and patristic proofs of the general tradition, but will instead strive to put forward (clearly and concisely) the scriptural and traditional accounts about the different Jameses.

The five important James-figures in Scripture
The name "James" in the New Testament is borne by several:
1. James, the son of Zebedee — Apostle, brother of John, Apostle; also called "James the Greater".
2. James, the son of Alpheus, Apostle — Matthew 10:3; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:15; Acts 1:13.
3. James, the brother of the Lord — Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3; Galatians 1:19. Without a shadow of doubt, he must be identified with the James of Galatians 2:2 and 2:9; Acts 12:17, 15:13 sqq. and 21:18; and 1 Corinthians 15:7.
4. James, the son of Mary, brother of Joseph (or Joses) — Mark 15:40 (where he is called "the little", not the "less", as in the D.V., nor the "lesser"); Matthew 27:56. Probably the son of Cleophas or Clopas (John 19:25) where "Maria Cleophæ" is generally translated "Mary the wife of Cleophas", as married women are commonly distinguished by the addition of their husband's name.
5. James, the brother of Jude — Jude 1:1. Most Catholic commentators identify Jude with the "Judas Jacobi", the "brother of James" (Luke 6:16; Acts 1:13), called thus because his brother James was better known than himself in the primitive Church.
[taken from the Catholic Encyclopedia on “James the Less”]
Additionally, we know of James who wrote the Letter of St. James, James the bishop of Jerusalem, James who is regularly mentioned together with Peter and John, James whose bones are in Compostela (Spain), and James who is buried in Rome (at Dodici Apostoli).
The Church has recognized, in all these James-figures, only two men – who were related as uncle and nephew.
James the Less (uncle of James the Greater)
The general consensus of the Fathers, Doctors and theologians is that James the Less is the “James” of 2-5 (from the above list), as well as the Bishop of Jerusalem, the author of the Letter of St. James, and who is buried in Rome.
This James is the brother (rather, cousin) of the Lord (through both Joseph and Mary), the son of Cleophas (aka Alphaeus, who met Christ on the way to Emmaus and was brother to Joseph the spouse of Mary) and Mary of Alphaeus (the sister of the Virgin Mary), the brother also of Mary Salome, and also the brother of Jude the Apostle, called the Less or the little. This James is also called “James the Just”.
His feast is on May 3rd (May 11th in the 1962 calendar, though traditionally on May 1st), together with St. Philip.
James the Greater (nephew of James the Less)
This is the first James (1) from the above list – James the Greater, the brother of John the Evangelist. James the Greater is called “Greater” as a means of distinguishing him from James the Less (who is called “the Less” from Mark 15:40). This is James who is regularly mentioned together with Peter and John as being taken apart from the rest of the Apostles to experience a special revelation from Jesus (as at the Transfiguration and the Agony in the Garden).
James the Greater was the son of Zebedee and of Mary Salome. This means that he was the nephew of James the Less, who was the brother of Salome.
This is the James who is said to have preached the Gospel in Spain and whose bones are venerated at Compostela. Today is his feast.
In the Roman Canon (Eucharistic Prayer I)
From the Communicantes of the new English translation of the Roman Missal:  “In communion with those whose memory we venerate, […] your blessed Apostles and Martyrs, Peter and Paul, Andrew, James, John, Thomas, James, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Simon, and Jude.”
We may question: Which James is which?
The answer: The first “James” is James the Greater – elder brother of John, hence he is placed directly before him. The second “James” is James the Less – who is venerated together with Philip and placed beside him in the Canon.

The biblical and patristic evidence for these claims is laid out in an earlier article here.

St. James, Pray for us!


Rob said...

Thanks! My parish is Ss. Philip and James, and I always have trouble with which one is "ours"!

Brad said...

May God bless you, Father!

I just diagrammed out a visual family tree based on your essay. Do you know of any on the internet, from reliable Catholic sources?

Father, would you say a tiny prayer for an intention I have this morning? I could use someone's help.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Brad ... I don't know of any online family-tree.
Prayers coming your way! +

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

If any are interested in finding the Biblical evidence for these claims ... a close comparison of the women at the foot of the Cross (the so-called 3 Marys: Mary of Alphaeus/Cleophas, Mary Salome, and Mary Magdalene [who is not in the family tree]) will provide a great start.
We have references to "the sister of His Mother", "Mary the mother of James the Less", "the mother of the sons of Zebedee",
Mary of Alpheus", "Mary of Cleophas", and "Salome".
The Church Fathers and the tradition helps us to sort some of this out too!

Anonymous said...

That's my Cleophas Family!


Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Veronica, That's right -- you got me started on this whole study! :-)

St. Cleophas, father of James the Less (of Salome and of St. Jude), grandfather of James the Greater (and of John the Beloved), brother of St. Joseph, husband of the sister of Mary the Mother of God ... Pray for us!

Howard said...

It's not clear to me why Cleophas is just another name for Alphaeus. They seem to be treated as 2 different persons in the Gospels.
-- Howard

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Howard, I admit that it is not readily apparent ... please look at the link I posted at the end of the article ... you will find the answer there.

Mary of Cleophas is called the mother of James the Less.
But James the Less is called the son of Alphaeus.
Hence we can infer that Cleophas is Alphaeus ... and there is an etymological link between the names as well ... not to mention the support of a long tradition.

Wilson said...

Is it correct to say that the Lord is the uncle of James the Greater and John the Evangelist, since their grandparents on their mother's side are siblings of St. Joseph and the Virgin Mary?

Henry said...

I thought that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was an only child.


Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

I believe that the correct term is "second cousin" ... the mother of James the Greater and John the Beloved is the first cousin of Jesus, so that would make them his second cousins.

Peace. +

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

You are correct ... sort of.
Mary the Mother of God is the only child of Joachim and Anne; however, it is probably that Joachim had a previous marriage and another daughter ... hence Mary the wife of Alpheaus would the half-sister of the Virgin Mary.

"Now there stood by the cross of Jesus, his mother, and HIS MOTHER'S SISTER, Mary of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalen." (Jn 19:25)
It seems that Mary of Cleophas (aka Aphaeus) is the name of the sister of the Mother of Jesus.

Peace. +

Howard said...

In your previous article on Cleopas, you say "Cleopas could likely be the Greek version of an Aramaic name (Alpheaus)." That seems speculative. And in your response to my question above, you write, "James the Less is called the son of Alphaeus." But none of the references to "James, the son of Alphaeus" identify this James (the Apostle) with "James the less, the son of Mary of Cleophas." Harold Riley's article on "The Brothers of the Lord" in The Downside Review, 1998, and Josef Blinzler's book and his article, "Hatte Jesus Geschwister?" both come to the conclusion that there were three "James" -- two Apostles, and one cousin.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

I don't doubt that Harold Riley and Joseph Blinzler (and others) would hold that Alphaeus is not Cleophas.
Did you catch the year in which the book was published? 1998.

However, while there is certainly great diversity of opinion, many of the Fathers, Doctors, theologians, saints, and biblical scholars have maintained that Cleophas and Alphaeus are indeed one and the same, and the James the Less, the son of Cleophas is the Apostle.

Call it "speculative" if you want ... I'll call it "traditional" and "patristic" and "scholastic" and "Catholic" ...

Personally, I don't care too much what we hold on the point ... but what I simply cannot understand is how anyone can allow the past 40 years of "scholarship" to completely outweigh the true wisdom of well over 1500 years!

Were St. Jerome, St. Thomas, and St. Lawrence of Brindisi really so stupid? Is it at all likely that they had such a poor understanding of Scripture? Had none read the Bible honestly until the 1800s?

Fr. Cornelius a' Lapide (of the 17th Century) is a great example of a true scholar -- he was far more skilled in the technical work of exegetes than modern historical-biblical "scholars" -- who deals with these issues with great precision and care.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

I should point out ... in fairness ... There is a tradition (held also by Cornelius a' Lapide) that Mary of Alphaeus was not the sister but the cousin of Mary -- and that Alphaeus/Cleophas was the brother of Joseph.

In that case, James the Less would be the first cousin of Jesus by law (through Joseph) and only the second cousin of Jesus by blood (through his Mother).

The advantage of this theory is that it allows us to maintain that the Virgin Mary was simply and absolutely an only child.

Thanks for bringing it up! +

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

To explain the relation between Cleophas and Alphaeus:

Cleophas is Greek and could likely correspond to the Aramaic Halophai (or Halphai).
The Aramaic Halphai would easily be transliterated to the greek Alphaeus.

[recall the close linguistic relation between "K" (or "C") and "H" ... "Cleoph-" could become "Haloph-". Then recall that "h" can easily be dropped, so that "Halph-" becomes "Alph-"]

If it seemed reasonable to the great Doctors and Scholars of our 2000yr tradition (who knew greek and hebrew and syriac much better than I do), then I'll trust their word on it!
[indeed, it does (personally) seem reasonable also to me]

Anonymous said...

"...what I simply cannot understand is how anyone can allow the past 40 years of 'scholarship' to completely outweigh the true wisdom of well over 1500 years!"

I have often wondered the very same thing.


Michelangelo said...

Hi Father Erlenbush,

Our parish is St. James Minor. He is so humble that he made arrangements that the stained glass window in church where his should be, the first window on the side of the church next to Our Lady's altar, is that of his nephew, St. James the Greater! The windows date from the 1850s I believe... So there you go. God bless, Father.

Howard said...

The Catholic Encyclopedia, in regard to St. Jerome's identification of Cleophas and Alphaeus, says "there are grave difficulties in the way of this identification of Alpheus and Cleophas. In the first place, St. Luke, who speaks of Cleophas (24:18), also speaks of Alpheus (6:15; Acts 1:13). We may question whether he would have been guilty of such a confused use of names, had they both referred to the same person. Again, while Alphas is the equivalent of the Aramaic, it is not easy to see how the Greek form of this became Cleophas, or more correctly Clopas. More probably it is a shortened form of Cleopatros."

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@Howard, and the Catholic Encyclopedia,

I have said before: "...what I simply cannot understand is how anyone can allow the past 40 years of 'scholarship' to completely outweigh the true wisdom of well over 1500 years!"

You have stated: "The Catholic Encyclopedia, in regard to St. Jerome's identification ... says 'there are grave difficulties...'"

To which I respond: res ipsa loquitur.

Fine to discuss, fine to have various opinions, but to dismiss 1500yrs?!
[btw, I do not insist on this identification between Cleophas and Alphaeus ... I only insist that it is absurd and insane to dismiss 1500yrs+ of tradition, as though no one had read the Bible honestly before the 1800's]

Howard said...

Fr. John Dietzen, in a column for the Catholic News Service, a few years ago, said that the majority of Catholic theologians now hold that Jesus "brothers," including James, were stepchildren of Mary from Joseph. I think he must be wrong. If not, I presume these theologians are not following the tradition. St. Hegesippus before St. Jerome writes, "James, the brother of the Lord, succeeded to the government of the Church in conjunction with the apostles" -- which doesn't sound like James himself was an Apostle. Josef Blinzler's book, which I mentioned above, is just about the only book-length examination of the tradition that I have found, and he discounts the conclusion about the identity of Alphaeus and Cleophas. In any case, you need to respond to the counter-argument mentioned in the Catholic Encyclopedia, which has a reputation of upholding the tradition.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Howard, James the Less is venerated by the Church as son of Alphaeus, first bishop of Jerusalem, and Apostle ... James has traditionally been venerated as the cousin of Jesus -- either through Mary (through her supposed half-sister, Mary of Alphaeus) or through Joeseph (through his suppposed brother, Cleophas); or these two traditions can be united (as I myself have held).

And no, I do not need to respond to you counter-argument ... there is room for diversity ... I am only stating that, if you want to dismiss the Alphaeus/Cleophas connection (I mean "dismiss" not "dispute"), then you are free to do so -- but you are dismissing 1500yrs+

Howard said...

This was not my counter-argument, but from the Catholic Encyclopedia, which, like the other authors I mention, casts doubt on the alleged "tradition" regarding the identity of Alphaeus and Cleophas. If indeed there is such a tradition, you should at least respond to the objection raised there.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

I know what the Catholic Encyclopedia says ... on this particular point (regarding the liguistic relation between Alphaeus and Cleophas), I disagree ... even still, the Cath. Enc. does state that the two names could yet refer to the same man [if you took the time to read the article to the end] ... this alone should be enough to prove that there is a tradition: The Cath Enc feels bound to present the option even when it is clear that the author is not in favor of it.

As to "my response" to the objections you raised ... please reread my comment above (July 26, 2:07pm) -- you will see my own linguistic argument [which is similar to that presented in Cath. Enc.].

How strange it is that you appeal so strongly to the authority of an Encyclopedia from the early 1900s, but give absolutely no credence to the authority of the great biblical scholars of the Catholic tradition (like St. Jerome, or more recently, Fr. Cornelius a' Lapide).
We are free to differ on whether Cleophas is Alphaeus, but to dismiss the tradition as obviously wrong -- that is a bit much!

Howard said...

I don't dismiss the tradition -- namely, that James and the other three brothers are cousins of Jesus. With regard to the issue we disagree on, as mentioned above, I have been influenced by Tübingen theologian Josef Blinzler's Die Brüder und Schwestern von Jesu, which sifts through hundreds of patristic as well as modern Catholic and Protestant sources. He gets to the issue we have been discussing on pp. 135ff. He writes, "In certain particulars Jerome's exegetical analysis of the evidence can no longer be held as certain in the face of contemporary Bible research. Two of these particulars include the identification of the brother of the Lord, James, with the Apostle James, son of Alphaeus; and also the identification of Mary of Cleophas with Mary, the wife of Alphaeus and the mother of James....Jerome leaves open the possibility that Mary of Cleophas was the daughter or a more distant relative of Cleophas. He did not identify Alphaeus with Cleophas, nor accept the identity of the two names -- which offers us a good indication of his philological competence.... Jerome later somewhat modified his position, or rather the basis of his position..... [In the years after the tract against Helvidius] in Jerome's commentary on Galatians, James the Lord's brother is no longer identified with the Apostle James. He is called "brother" [of the Lord] because of his outstanding way of life, incomparable faith and extraordinary wisdom.... In his commentary on Isaiah, Jerome adds to the twelve apostles James, called the brother of the Lord, as the thirteenth apostle, and Paul as the fourteenth apostle."

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Good, we are finally "discussing" the tradition, rather than "dismissing" it!

Now, I still hold to James the Less as being an Apostle.
To me, the general consensus since the time of Jerome (even if Jerome himself may not have been as strong on this latter) is enough -- esp. considering that James the Less is identified as an apostle in the Church's liturgies (East and West).

Also, I just don't see how to get around Gal 1:19, "But other of the apostles I saw none, SAVING James the brother of the Lord."
this is the Greek "ei me", "if not" or "except".
This seems to very clearly indicate that James the Less (brother of the Lord) is indeed an Apostle -- he and Peter are the only Apostles whom Paul saw during his first visit to Jerusalem as a Christian.
["I went to Jerusalem to see Peter ... But other of the apostles I saw not, saving James the brother of the Lord."]

What struck me most about your comment is this line "can no longer be held as certain IN THE FACE OF CONTEMPORARY BIBLE RESEARCH" -- once again, this silly notion that the past 40 or so years (or perhaps the past 100yrs) have completely disproved 1500yrs+ of Biblical Scholarship.

If the moderns only made points like this (about James) here and there, that would be one thing. But again and again, sometimes it seems on nearly every point, the moderns continually state that the old opinions cannot stand "in the face of contemporary scholarship" -- you could think that none had read the Bible before Reimarus (and other heretical [i.e. Protestant and/or atheistic] biblical "scholars")!

Howard said...

In regard to Galatians 1:19, Paul says he had seen Peter, but "I did not see any of the other apostles [besides Peter], only James the brother of the Lord." This doesn't imply that James was an Apostle, but just the opposite.
The Greek is "eteron de twn apostolwn ouk eidon ei mh iakwbon ton adelfon tou kuriou." Translations of this verse differ because of the "ei mh." "ei mh" is a conjunction which can be either adversative, meaning "but I did see James" or exceptive, meaning "except for James." Since the exceptive meaning might imply that there was some third apostle named James, son of "the other Mary," the other meaning is closer to the context. Even if you prefer the exceptive meaning, you have to keep in mind that Paul in verse 17 had just referred to "those who were apostles before me." In other words, he includes himself as an apostle, in addition to the twelve. Similarly, in 1 Cor. 9:5, as you know, he included himself and Barnabas as apostles.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

When Paul speaks of the Apostles in Jerusalem (which he expressly states he is), these seem to be specifically the 11 (12 with Matthias) ... then, of course there are many other apostles besides.

I'm sorry, but I just don't have time to continue this discussion ... I am glad it has grown into a discussion rather than being simply a dismissal (as with the majority of modern critics).

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Why don't we let Fr. Cornelius a' Lapide have the last word on this discussion of who James the Less was ... and on St. Jerome's opinion of the matter:

"Ver. 19.—But other of the apostles saw I none save James the Lord’s brother. I.e., a cousin or relation of Christ’s, for the Hebrews call cousins brothers. S. Jerome adds that S. James was called the Lord’s brother before all the Apostles, even those related to Christ, on account of his lofty character, his incomparable faith and wisdom, which made him seem like a brother to Christ. For the same reason he was surnamed the Just. Secondly, S. Jerome says that Christ, when going to His Father, commended to James, as to a brother, the eldest children of His mother, i.e., those in Judæa who believed on Him; for this James, the son of Alphæus, the son of Mary, wife of Cleophas, one of the twelve Apostles, was the first Bishop of Jerusalem. This is why, in the First Council of Jerusalem, he was the first after Peter to pronounce judgment (Acts xv. 13). A Canonical Epistle of his is extant.

S. Jerome hints both here and in his book on Ecclesiastical Writers, when writing of James, that this James was not of the twelve Apostles, but was called an Apostle, only because he had seen Christ and preached Him. In this case we have three of the name of James—the brother of John, slain by Herod; the son of Alphæus, both of whom were Apostles; and this brother of the Lord. But since this brother of the Lord is called an Apostle, and there is no cogent reason for distinguishing him from James the Apostle and son of Alphæus, when, indeed, there are many reasons why we should identify them, the first opinion seems the better one."

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