son of Zebedee and Salome. Zahn asserts that Salome
was the daughter of a priest. James is styled “the
Greater” to distinguish him from the Apostle James
“the Less,” who was probably shorter of stature.
Nnothing is known of St. James’s early life. He
was the brother of John, the beloved disciple, and
probably the elder of the two.
parents seem to have been people of means as appears
from the following facts.
Zebedee was a fisherman of the Lake of Galilee,
who probably lived in or near Bethsaida (John, i,
44), perhaps in Capharnaum; and had some boatmen
or hired men as his usual attendants (Mark, i, 20).
Salome was one of the pious women who afterwards
followed Christ and “ministered unto him of their
substance” (cf. Matt., xxvii, 55, sq.; Mark, xv,
40; xvi, 1; Luke, viii, 2 sq.; xxiii, 55-xxiv, 1).
St. John was personally known to the high-priest
(John, xviii, 16); and must have had wherewithal
to provide for the Mother of Jesus (John, xix, 27).
is probable, according to Acts 4:13, that John (and
consequently his brother James) had not received
the technical training of the rabbinical schools;
in this sense they were unlearned and without any
official position among the Jews. But, according
to the social rank of their parents, they must have
been men of ordinary education, in the common walks
of Jewish life. They had frequent opportunity of
coming in contact with Greek life and language,
which were already widely spread along the shores
of the Galilean Sea.
of St. James to Jesus
authors, comparing John 19:25 with Matthew 28:56
and Mark 15:40, identify, and probably rightly so,
Mary the Mother of James the Less and of Joseph
in Mark and Matthew with “Mary of Cleophas” in John.
As the name of Mary Magdalen occurs in the three
lists, they identify further Salome in Mark with
“the mother of the sons of Zebedee” in Matthew;
finally they identify Salome with “his mother’s
sister” in John. They suppose, for this last identification,
that four women are designated by John, xix, 25;
the Syriac “Peshito” gives the reading: “His mother
and his mother’s sister, and Mary of Cleophas and
this last supposition is right, Salome was a sister
of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and James the Greater
and John were first cousins of the Lord; this may
explain the discipleship of the two brothers, Salome’s
request and their own claim to the first position
in His kingdom, and His commendation of the Blessed
Virgin to her own nephew. But it is doubtful whether
the Greek admits of this construction without the
addition or the omission of kai (and). Thus the
relationship of St. James to Jesus remains doubtful.
life and apostolate
Galilean origin of St. James in some degree explains
the energy of temper and the vehemence of character
which earned for him and St. John the name of Boanerges,
“sons of thunder” (Mark 3:17); the Galilean race
was religious, hardy, industrious, brave, and the
strongest defender of the Jewish nation. When John
the Baptist proclaimed the kingdom of the Messias,
St. John became a disciple (John 1:35); he was directed
to “the Lamb of God” and afterwards brought his
brother James to the Messias; the obvious meaning
of John, i, 41, is that St. Andrew finds his brother
(St. Peter) first and that afterwards St. John (who
does not name himself, according to his habitual
and characteristic reserve and silence about himself)
finds his brother (St. James).
call of St. James to the discipleship of the Messias
is reported in a parallel or identical narration
by Matthew 4:18-22; Mark 1:19 sq.; and Luke 5:1-11.
The two sons of Zebedee, as well as Simon (Peter)
and his brother Andrew with whom they were in partnership
(Luke 5:10), were called by the Lord upon the Sea
of Galilee, where all four with Zebedee and his
hired servants were engaged in their ordinary occupation
of fishing. The sons of Zebedee “forthwith left
their nets and father, and followed him” (Matthew
4:22), and became “fishers of men”. St. James was
afterwards with the other eleven called to the Apostleship
(Matt., x, 1-4; Mark, iii, 13-19; Luke, vi, 12-16;
Acts, i, 13). In all four lists the names of Peter
and Andrew, James and John form the first group,
a prominent and chosen group (cf. Mark, xiii, 3);
especially Peter, James, and John.
three Apostles alone were admitted to be present
at the miracle of the raising of Jairus’s daughter
(Mark, v, 37; Luke, viii, 51), at the Transfiguration
(Mark, ix, 1; Matt., xvii, 1; Luke, ix, 28), and
the Agony in Gethsemani (Matt., xxvi, 37; Mark,
xiv, 33). The fact that the name of James occurs
always (except in Luke, viii, 51; ix, 28; Acts,
i, 13–Gr. Text) before that of his brother seems
to imply that James was the elder of the two. It
is worthy of notice that James is never mentioned
in the Gospel of St. John; this author observes
a humble reserve not only with regard to himself,
but also about the members of his family.
incidents scattered through the Synoptics suggest
that James and John had that particular character
indicated by the name “Boanerges,” sons of thunder,
given to them by the Lord (Mark, iii, 17); they
were burning and impetuous in their evangelical
zeal and severe in temper. The two brothers showed
their fiery temperament against “a certain man casting
out devils” in the name of the Christ; John, answering,
said: “We [James is probably meant] forbade him,
because he followeth not with us” (Luke, ix, 49).
When the Samaritans refused to receive Christ, James
and John said: “Lord, wilt thou that we command
fire to come down from heaven, and consume them?”
(Luke, ix, 54; cf. v. 49).
the last journey to Jerusalem, their mother Salome
came to the Lord and said to Him: “Say that these
my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand,
and the other on thy left, in thy kingdom” (Matt.,
xx, 21). And the two brothers, still ignorant of
the spiritual nature of the Messianic Kingdom, joined
with their mother in this eager ambition (Mark 10:37).
And on their assertion that they are willing to
drink the chalice that He drinks of, and to be baptized
with the baptism of His sufferings, Jesus assured
them that they will share His sufferings (Mark 5:38-39).
won the crown of martyrdom fourteen years after
this prophecy, A.D. 44. Herod Agrippa I, son of
Aristobulus and grandson of Herod the Great, reigned
at that time as “king” over a wider dominion than
that of his grandfather. His great object was to
please the Jews in every way, and he showed great
regard for the Mosaic Law and Jewish customs. In
pursuance of this policy, on the occasion of the
Passover of A.D. 44, he perpetrated cruelties upon
the Church, whose rapid growth incensed the Jews.
The zealous temper of James and his leading part
in the Jewish Christian communities probably led
Agrippa to choose him as the first victim. “He killed
James, the brother of John, with the sword.” (Acts
to a tradition, which, as we learn from Eusebius
(Hist. Eccl., II, ix, 2, 3), was received from Clement
of Alexandria (in the seventh book of his lost “Hypotyposes”),
the accuser who led the Apostle to judgment, moved
by his confession, became himself a Christian, and
they were beheaded together. As Clement testifies
expressly that the account was given him “by those
who were before him,” this tradition has a better
foundation than many other traditions and legends
respecting the Apostolic labours and death of St.
James, which are related in the Latin “Passio Jacobi
Majoris”, the Ethiopic “Acts of James”, and so on.
James in Spain
tradition asserting that James the Greater preached
the Gospel in Spain, and that his body was translated
to Compostela, claims more serious consideration.
to this tradition St. James the Greater, having
preached Christianity in Spain, returned to Judea
and was put to death by order of Herod; his body
was miraculously translated to Iria Flavia in the
northwest of Spain, and later to Compostela. This
town, especially during the Middle Ages, became
one of the most famous places of pilgrimage in the
world. The vow of making a pilgrimage to Compostela
to honour the sepulchre of St. James is still reserved
to the pope, who alone of his own or ordinary right
can dispense from it. In the twelfth century was
founded the Order of Knights of St. James of Compostela.
regard to the preaching of the Gospel in Spain by
St. James the greater, several difficulties have
St. James suffered martyrdom A.D. 44 (Acts 12:2),
and, according to the tradition of the early Church,
he had not yet left Jerusalem at this time (cf.
Clement of Alexandria, “Strom.”, VI, Apollonius,
quoted by Euseb., “Hist. Eccl.” VI, xviii).
St. Paul in his Epistle to the Romans (A.D. 58)
expressed the intention to visit Spain (Romans 15:24)
just after he had mentioned (15:20) that he did
not “build upon another man’s foundation.”
The argument ex silentio: although the tradition
that James founded an Apostolic see in Spain was
current in the year 700, no certain mention of such
tradition is to be found in the genuine writings
of early writers nor in the early councils; the
first certain mention we find in the ninth century,
in Notker, a monk of St. Gall (Martyrol., 25 July),
Walafried Strabo (Poema de XII Apost.), and others.
The tradition was not unanimously admitted afterwards,
while numerous scholars reject it. The Bollandists
however defended it (see Acta Sanctorum, July, VI
and VII, where other sources are given).
authenticity of the sacred relic of Compostela has
been questioned and is still doubted. Even if St.
James the Greater did not preach the Christian religion
in Spain, his body may have been brought to Compostela,
and this was already the opinion of Notker. According
to another tradition, the relics of the Apostle
are kept in the church of St-Saturnin at Toulouse
(France), but it is not improbable that such sacred
relics should have been divided between two churches.
A strong argument in favour of the authenticity
of the sacred relics of Compostela is the Bull of
Leo XIII, “Omnipotens Deus,” of 1 November, 1884.
à Q.Culture Histoire
at wanadoo.fr - 04/01/2013