False Ideas about James, the Son of Alphaeus
Because of the insistence that Mary remained a virgin her entire life, the Catholic Church goes through some crazy hermeneutical gymnastics that include this James. Their argument goes like this:
- Mary remained a virgin her entire life, with Jesus being her only child.
- Therefore, the “brothers” of Jesus (James, Joses, Simon, and Judas) weren’t really His “brothers,” but cousins.
- The woman named “Mary” who was the mother of James and Joses1 was not the mother of Jesus, but the sister of the Virgin Mary. 2
- The mother of James and Joses is the wife of Cleopas.
- Therefore, Cleopas (who is to be identified with Alphaeus) was the Virgin Mary’s brother-in-law, and the father of four of the apostles: James the less, Judas [the brother] of James, Simon the zealot, and Matthew.3
This whole line of argumentation starts with a false premise, and continues to make false claims and assumptions to try to back it up. This whole idea is proven false by the following:
- Matthew 1:25 says that Joseph didn’t “know” (have sexual relations with) Mary until after Jesus was born. This means that after Jesus was born, they did. Thus, she was not a perpetual virgin.
- The “brethren” of the Lord are mentioned repeatedly as being with Mary, the mother of Jesus.4 So, instead of these adult males being with their own mother (who was still alive), they went everywhere with their aunt?!? Such an idea is ridiculous.
- Those who knew Jesus said that He was the “son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and Judah, and Simon” and that his sisters also lived there.5
- No rational parent would name two daughters with the same name—Mary did not have a sister named Mary.
- There were four women mentioned in John 19:25, not three: Mary, her sister (Salome), Mary the mother of Cleopas’ children, and Mary Magdalene.
- After Jesus selected the twelve apostles, his “brethren” still did not believe in Him.6 Therefore, neither James, nor Judas, nor Joses, nor Simon (all named as “brethren” of the Lord) could have been among the apostles.7 Nor could Matthew have been a brother of the Lord, for he was one of the twelve that had already been chosen.
In short, James, the son of Alphaeus, was not the brother of the Lord, nor were any others among the twelve.
Traditions About James, the Son of Alphaeus
The Genealogies of the Twelve Apostles claims that James was of the tribe of Gad.8
One tradition says that James was preaching in Jerusalem, which angered the Jews greatly, and they drug him before Claudius,9 making accusations against him, and Claudius commanded him to be stoned to death.10
Most of the traditions surrounding James come from the Catholic Church, which wrongfully identifies him as James, the brother of the Lord.11
-Bradley S. Cobb
1 Matthew 27:56; Mark 15:40.
2 This is based on a misreading of John 19:25, which lists four women. The Catholic Church claims there is only three: Mary, her sister (also named Mary), and Mary Magdalene.
3 Bishop Lightfoot argues this, though it goes against the evidence given in John 7:5, and the fact that Matthew is never mentioned in the listing of Jesus’ “brothers.”
4 Matthew 12:46-50; 13:55.
5 Mark 6:3.
6 John 6:70-71 shows that Jesus had already selected the twelve apostles; and just five verses later, John informs us that His brethren still didn’t believe in Him. Thus, James the son of Alphaeus cannot be one of the “brethren” of the Lord.
7 See also John 7:3, where the brethren of Jesus distinguish between themselves and the disciples of Jesus; showing that they did not consider themselves to be among that group.
8 See Budge, Contendings of the Apostles, vol. 2, page 50.
9 Whether this is supposed to be the Roman Emperor, or some local ruler (like Herod), isn’t stated in the text from which this legend comes.
10 See “the Martyrdom of Saint James,” in Budge, Contendings of the Apostles, Vol. 2, pages 264-266.
11 See the chapter on that James for more information regarding the traditions surrounding him.