In searching the website, I discovered that something was missing. If you remember, last year, I started posting sections of my still-in-progress book on the people called “apostles” in the NT. In that was a section on James, the brother of Jesus. Apparently, the part that I had written showing the connection between James the brother of the Lord and “James the Less” (they’re the same guy) was left out.
So today, we remedy that mistake.
James the Less
Most writers believe that Mark 15:40 references the apostle known as James, the son of Alphaeus,1 but there is actually more evidence that the man called “James the less,” or “little James” is James, the brother of Jesus.
First, it is logical to assume, given that he identifies a woman named “Mary” by who her children are, that these children would have already been mentioned at some point in the gospel narrative. One of those children is “James the less.” Thus, we should be able to find someone named “James” earlier in Mark’s gospel account who could be identified with this man.
James, the son of Zebedee, is eliminated because (1) he is always called “the son of Zebedee” and connected with John, whereas “James the less” is connected with Mary and Joses; and (2) Matthew 27:56 shows that the mother of Zebedee’s children is a different woman than “Mary, the mother of James and Joses.”
Second, if we accept the logical assumption that Mark wouldn’t throw in a name at the end of the gospel unless it had been mentioned earlier (or was an important figure), then we have to account for his including the name “Joses.” The “Mary” mentioned in Mark 15:40 is identified by the names of her sons: James the less and Joses. Thus, we should be able to look back in Mark and find the name Joses. We find it only once—Mark 6:3, which speaks of “Mary” and her sons “James, and Joses…”
Therefore, if we accept the premise (and we do) that “James the less” must be someone previously mentioned, then so, too, must Joses be someone previously mentioned. The evidence fits perfectly that Mark 15:40 is describing the mother of Jesus, who was also the mother of James and Joses.2
-Bradley S. Cobb
1 See chapter on that apostle for more information.
2 Compare Matthew 27:56, Mark 15:40, and John 19:25, which put the same group of women together: Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of Jesus, and Mary’s sister, Salome, the mother of Zebedee’s children. It might be inquired, if this is accurate, why isn’t she called “Mary, the mother of Jesus” in Matthew and Mark? It is because John mentions her while Jesus is still alive, whereas Matthew and Mark mention her after His death—thus, they identify her by her then-living children.