Go to Spirituality for Today Home Page
  A Christian Faith Magazine August 2003, Volume 9, Issue 1  
Apostle of the Month - St. James the Lesser
Print Friendly Page

St. James the Lesser

St. James the Lesser was possibly the son of Mary and Alpheus of Cleophas. His mother, Mary, would have been either a sister or a close relative of the Blessed Virgin. For that reason, according to Jewish custom, he was sometimes called "the brother of the Lord".

An ancient tradition has identified this James with James the Lesser from the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Thus the title "the Lesser", which literally means "the little one", came to be transferred to James, son of Alphaeus. The expression "the Lesser" refers either to size or age and not to relative importance.

After the death, Resurrection, and Ascension of our Lord, when the Apostles scattered over the world, St. James remained behind as Bishop of Jerusalem. In that capacity, he was one of the principal speakers for the early Church, especially in the face of questions from the Jews. Scripture records James as having a pivotal role in the problem of how much Jewish obligations should bind the new Christians and ultimately suggesting that only four Jewish practices be imposed on Gentiles wishing to be followers of Christ.

Traditionally, biblical scholars have considered James, the son of Alpheus, as the same James called " the brother of the Lord", the same James who speaks with the voice of authority in the early Church. Some modern scholars, however, hold that there may have been two persons named James. The first being the son of Alpheus, one of the twelve, and the second being "the brother of the Lord" who was the author of the Epistle of James, and an authoritative figure in the early church. Among the reasons these modern scholars cite their opinion for this belief is the fact that in his epistle, James speaks of the apostles in the past tense and does not identify himself as an apostle. The scholars also comment that the elegant Greek literary style used by the author of the epistle would not likely be used by a Galilean peasant.

History has two accounts of the martyrdom of St. James the Lesser. According to Flavius Josephus, St. James was stoned to death in 62 A.D. According to Hegesippus, a second century ecclestiastical historian, James was thrown from the pinnacle of the Temple in Jerusalem by the Pharisees. When the fall didn't kill James, he was beaten to death with clubs. Traditional symbols of James the Lesser are a club with which he was martyred, and a book representing the biblical letters he wrote.

The feast of St. James the Lesser is celebrated in the Latin Rite of the Church on May 3, along with that of St. Philip.

From www.catholic-forum.com

back to top | home

copyright 2005 Clemons Productions Inc. and the Diocese of Bridgeport