James, the son of Alphaeus

James, the son of Alphaeus, was another one of the twelve apostles.  However, he was not as prominent in the biblical record as James the son of Zebedee, so that relatively little is known about him.  However, his name appears in all three lists of the twelve apostles in the synoptic gospels of Matthew, chapter 10:3, Mark, chapter 3:18, and Luke chapter 6:14, as well as the Acts of the Apostles, chapter 1:13.  Alphaeus is also the name of the father of the publican Levi mentioned in Mark, chapter 2:14.  Some have concluded that James and Matthew, who was sometimes called Levi, might have been brothers.  This James is often identified as James the Less and commonly known by that name in church tradition.  This was in contrast with James, the son of Zebedee, who was known as James the Great.  Papias of Hierapolis (70–163 CE) said that Mary, the wife of Alphaeus was the mother of James the Less.  He mentioned four women named Mary in the gospels: (1) Mary the mother of the Lord, Jesus Christ; (2) Mary the wife of Cleophas or Alphaeus, who was the mother of James the bishop and apostle; (3) Mary Salome the wife of Zebedee, mother of John the evangelist and James; and (4) Mary Magdalene.  Hippolytus (170-235 CE) said that James the son of Alphaeus, when preaching in Jerusalem was stoned to death by the Jews, and was buried there beside the Temple.  This is the meager information we have about James, the son of Alphaeus.  He is a more viable candidate for the authorship of this epistle of James.  Was this James as literate as Matthew or his friends?  Certainly, they were both Jewish and early followers of Jesus Christ, among his twelve chosen ones.  However, there has been some confusion with this James and the other James, the so-called brother of Jesus.  The Catholic tradition holds that this James is to be identified with James, son of Alphaeus, called James the Less.  Where they all the two or three people named James one and the same person?  Were they related to each other, since they were all from Galilee?  We do not know the answer with any kind of certainty.  There were a number of important people among the followers of Jesus named James.  Do you have friends with the same first name?

The other apostles (Mk 3:18-3:18)

Then there was


And Philip,

And Bartholomew,

And Matthew,

And Thomas,

And James

The son of Alphaeus,

And Thaddaeus,

And Simon,

The Cananaean.”


καὶ Ἀνδρέαν καὶ Φίλιππον καὶ Βαρθολομαῖον καὶ Μαθθαῖον καὶ Θωμᾶν καὶ Ἰάκωβον τὸν τοῦ Ἁλφαίου καὶ Θαδδαῖον καὶ Σίμωνα τὸν Καναναῖον


This section about naming the 12 apostles is similar to Matthew, chapter 10:3-4, and Luke, chapter 6:14-16.  This list can also be compared to the list in the Acts of the Apostles, chapter 1:13.  Except for Matthew and Andrew, the other 6 apostles are not mentioned by name elsewhere in the gospels.  Andrew (καὶ Ἀνδρέαν), the brother of Simon, is first here, but without being called his brother.  Then there was Philip (Φίλιππον), Bartholomew (καὶ Βαρθολομαῖον), Matthew (καὶ Μαθθαῖον), not called Levi, Thomas (καὶ Θωμᾶν), James, the son of Alphaeus (Ἰάκωβον τὸν τοῦ Ἁλφαίου), Thaddaeus (καὶ Θαδδαῖον), Simon the Cananaean (καὶ Σίμωνα τὸν Καναναῖον).  Obviously, this Simon may have not been Jewish since he is called a Cananaean.  Sometimes, this may have been a reference to the Zealots.  In Mark 2:14, Levi or Matthew was called the son of Alphaeus as James is here.  However, Thaddaeus was only listed by Matthew and Mark, while Luke and the Acts listed him as Jude or Judas, the son of James, not Thaddaeus.  Are these two-different people or just two different names?  Is this Jude Thaddeus like Simon Peter and Levi Matthew?  Did he have a Jewish and a Greek name?