Jesus’ Inner Circle: James (Part 1)

We now come the point in our study where we begin to focus our attention on the men who writers call Jesus’ “inner circle”1 of the apostles: Peter, James, and John.  These men enjoyed a close relationship with Jesus, and as such, the Bible gives us more information about them than any of the other original apostles.

James and His Relations

James is unique among the “inner circle” in that every time he is mentioned in the Bible, he is always mentioned in connection with at least one of his relatives.

He is known as one of the “sons of Zebedee.”  In part, this is to distinguish him from another apostle, “James, the son of Alphaeus”; but there is also something noteworthy about Zebedee himself.  Zebedee was almost certainly a very devout child of God.  He raised two sons who later became apostles, and who left their business at a moment’s notice to follow Jesus.  His own wife was a firm (though misguided) believer in the coming kingdom,2 most likely a personal financier of Jesus’ ministry,3 and was present at the crucifixion of Jesus.4  These facts point to the likelihood of Zebedee being a very faithful child of God who worked hard to instill a love of the Lord in the hearts and minds of his family.

There is not a single passage in Scripture that mentions James without also mentioning his brother John.  And with only one exception, James is always mentioned first.5  This shows that these two brothers worked well together.  They were fishermen together,6 they were sent out as a pair to preach the gospel together,7 they were told together about the suffering they would endure for Jesus,8 and were in Jerusalem together until James was put to death.9

James was most likely Jesus’ cousin.  Matthew 27:56 lists three women who were at the cross:

  • Mary Magdalene
  • Mary the mother of James and Joses [also known as Mary, the mother of Jesus],10 and
  • The mother of Zebedee’s children.

John 19:25 mentions four women:

  • Mary, the mother of Jesus,
  • Mary’s sister [Salome],11
  • Mary, the wife of Cleophas, and
  • Mary Magdalene.

The mother of Zebedee’s children (his wife) could not be the same as the wife of Cleophas.12  Thus, the only other possibility is that James’ mother was Salome, the sister of Mary.13  Therefore, James and John were cousins of Jesus and His brothers.

James the Apostle

James was one of the first disciples to be called to be a permanent follower of the Lord.14 The fullest account of his calling is given by Luke:

It came to pass, that as the people pressed on Him to head the word of God, He stood by the lake of Gennesaret [Sea of Galilee], and saw two ships standing by the lake.  But the fishermen were gone out of them, and were washing their nets.  And he entered into one of the ships, which was Simon’s, and asked him that he would thrust out a little from the land.  And He sat down, and taught the people out of the ship.

Now when He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, “Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught [a catch].”

And Simon, answering, said to Him, “Master, we’ve toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at your command, I will let down the net.”  And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net broke.  And they beckoned to their partners which were in the other ship, that they should come and help them.  And they came and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink.

When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”  For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the draught of the fish that they had taken.  And so also were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, which were partners with Simon.

And Jesus said to Simon, “Fear not; from now on, you shall catch men.”  And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed Him.15

Matthew and Mark both record that James was “called” by Jesus at this time.16

James, along with his brother John, followed Jesus to Capernaum, entered with him into the synagogue, and listened to Him teach with authority.  James must have turned with surprise when a man in the synagogue screamed out, “Leave us alone!  What do we have to do with you, you Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us?  I know you, who you are, the Holy One of God!”  And James watched with amazement as Jesus said, “Hold your peace and come out of him,” which was immediately followed by the man convulsing17 as a demon fought a hopeless battle to keep from being cast out of him.18

The same day, James accompanied Jesus as they went to Peter and Andrew’s house, where the Lord healed Peter’s mother-in-law.  That evening, James saw a crowd of people coming to Jesus from all over Capernaum, bringing all the sick, and all the demon-possessed people to Him—and Jesus healed them.  The next morning, James awoke from sleep and found that Jesus had left, so he accompanied Peter and looked until they found Him on a mountain where he had gone to pray.19

Some days later,20 James was called by Jesus to come to a mountain, and was selected to be part of a special group of twelve men, whom Jesus named “apostles.”21

-Bradley S. Cobb

1 The King James Commentary, on Luke 9:28, says, “Peter, James, and John made up the inner circle of disciples. At the outer perimeter was the group of five hundred who saw Christ after His resurrection (1 Cor. 15:6 ). A bit closer were the seventy disciples who were sent out two by two to preach and heal (Luke 10:1, 17 ). Still closer were the Twelve, of whom these three were specially selected to witness this event [the transfiguration], the raising of Jairus’ daughter, and Jesus’ agony in Gethsemane.”

2 Matthew 20:20-21.  More will be said on this passage later in this chapter.

3 Matthew 27:55-56 shows that Mrs. Zebedee (whose name was Salome) was among those who “followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to Him.”  Luke 8:2-3 describes certain women, and “many others” who ministered to Jesus out of their own substance.  Most likely, then, Salome was one of the women who personally financed Jesus’ ministry.  See also the Dictionary of Christ in the Gospels, ed. James Hastings, “James” (second footnote).

4 Matthew 27:55-56.

5 That one exception is Luke 9:28, where Jesus takes “Peter and John and James” to the mount where He is transfigured.  Both Matthew and Mark, when describing the same event, say “James and John.”  There are also some Greek manuscripts which also have James listed after John in Luke 8:51 and Acts 1:13 (see ESV at those verses), but the manuscripts that God saw fit to providentially preserve throughout the past two millennia read “James and John.”

6 Matthew 4:18-22.

7 See Matthew 10:1-4, and Mark 6:7.

8 Matthew 20:20-23.

9 Acts 8:1, 14; 12:2, 12; 13:13; Galatians 2:1, 9.

10 Matthew 27:56 and Mark 15:40 do not describe Mary as “the mother of Jesus,” because Jesus had died, whereas John 19:25 mentions her prior to Jesus’ death, thus calls her “His [Jesus’] mother.”

11 See Mark 15:40.

12 John refers to himself as one of “the sons of Zebedee.”  It is beyond credulity to believe that he would then identify his mother as the wife of some other man when his father was in all likelihood still alive (see Mark 1:20).

13 As discussed in the chapter on “James, the Son of Alphaeus,” the Catholic Church wants to make Mary, the wife of Cleophas, the same as the sister of Mary (mother of Jesus).  This suggestion has been thoroughly disproven both in that chapter, as well as in writings from other individuals, and as such is not even mentioned as a possibility here.

14 See Matthew 4:18-22.  It is generally believed that, like Peter and Andrew, the two sons of Zebedee followed Jesus prior to their official calling.  Many think that John (the brother of James) refers to himself in John 1:35-37, and that after being told that Jesus was “the Lamb of God,” he would have run to tell his brother.  Behind this supposition is the fact that John never mentions himself or his brother by name in his gospel account, though it is obvious (based on the other gospel writings) that both were present.

15 Luke 5:1-11.

16 Matthew 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-20.

17 Mark 1:26, Modern Literal Version.

18 These events are recorded in Mark 1:21-28, as well as Luke 4:31-37.

19 These events are recorded in Mark 1:29-36, as well as Luke 4:38-44.

20 We are not told how much time elapsed between the events in Luke 4 and in Luke 6.  It could have been several months, considering that Jesus went around Galilee preaching in the synagogues prior to selecting the apostles (Mark 1:39, see also 2:1, 3:13-19).

21 Luke 6:12-16.

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2 thoughts on “Jesus’ Inner Circle: James (Part 1)”

  1. Why do you destroy good research with Lies on the Virgin Mary.
    #1 Mary was an only child…… (scripture records this at the cross.) Her mother was sterile for over 20 years before conceiving Mary. Her father was a Priest at Temple. [not good enough for you!] make up lies and conjectures are better!!
    #2. Only a protestant would even think of considering Mary as with another child as St Joseph was VOWED chase LONG before being placed in the line with other eligible bachelors…. So liars and deceivers make things up ….for what ? place themselves above the authority of God. So only a brother of Luther would consider having conjugal relations, after she (Mary conceived from the Holy Ghost). [ Proven and shown to be true to Joseph time after time.!, do you need a list]
    I know I wouldn’t think of it!!
    , especially iF I had made a solemn vow prior to being espoused. As did Mary. But others like yourself, who condemn the matrimony as sacred, have conjugal relations with one wife after another time and again…Despite what Jesus said was “one flesh”. Yes one flesh…so after Mary gives birth to the Son of Man (Messiah)….she & Joseph should respond like protestants and have conjugal relations… now that is gifted Logic…..? of Satan!
    Now since your error is so valid. PLEASE explain WHERE in scripture has Mary married. Yes she was espoused. yes Joseph took her into his home as his wife….Marriages went on for weeks in those days (aka Cana). Where did Mary go? for 3 months unitl John the Baptist was born? You have no idea where Joseph lived and worked when he was espoused. or Why? Do YOU! Given the actual facts provided….they could and DID live as brother and sister…. what VERSE SHOWS them married???? please fill in the holes for your lies with scripture….
    We do not deny what is written, nor what is not written, as you do! So stick to what is written! John the Apostles took Mary into his home….did you? Was this Jewish law? to ask non relatives to see after your mother? This is honoring our mother, giving her to a stranger when ACCORDING to you she had other sons???????? even if they were josephs (NOT!)
    #3 . Jews live even today in cabutz calling each other brothers and sisters…..
    #4. Did you NOT know Mary was a temple virgin with several other girls since the age of 3 yrs old, (as Joachim had VOWED to God) these virgin girls would be like her sisters as they lived in the temple until they were of age. Then married off to priests.
    #5 Vows to God mean nothing to you! or u wouldn’t be following some brand of Lutherism ( broke all of his) after he shot someone and hid out in a monastery, becoming an Augustinian – but disavowed St Augustine teaching EVEN before breaking his three Vows of Poverty, Chasity and OBEDIENCE. ( model citizens of Christ.)
    #6 just like Luther bible alone and ONLY what you want it to say!….no other source is relevant ..unless you want to talk trash about the Church…. then you make stuff up. So stick to your scripture….not conjecture you know little of.

    #7 Turns out, the Church was there….you weren’t…your testimony is gratuitous and puffery. and your constant failure to understand the Jewish culture causes these gross errors.

    1. Tim, thanks for leaving a comment. I appreciate you taking the time to read what I wrote, even though you obviously disagree with it. Allow me to address your concerns in order:

      You said:

      #1 Mary was an only child…… (scripture records this at the cross.) Her mother was sterile for over 20 years before conceiving Mary. Her father was a Priest at Temple. [not good enough for you!] make up lies and conjectures are better!!

      In order for someone to serve as a priest, they had to (1) be of the tribe of Levi, and (2) a descendant of Aaron. Mary was not. Both genealogical records in Scripture (which we know is from God) show that Jesus was from the tribe of Judah, descended from David. So what you assert regarding her father being a priest contradicts Scripture, and therefore contradicts God.

      Additionally, there is no scripture that says Mary was an only child. If you disagree, then please give the evidence.

      #2. Only a protestant would even think of considering Mary as with another child as St Joseph was VOWED chase LONG before being placed in the line with other eligible bachelors…. So liars and deceivers make things up ….for what ? place themselves above the authority of God. So only a brother of Luther would consider having conjugal relations, after she (Mary conceived from the Holy Ghost). [ Proven and shown to be true to Joseph time after time.!, do you need a list]
      I know I wouldn’t think of it!!
      , especially iF I had made a solemn vow prior to being espoused. As did Mary. But others like yourself, who condemn the matrimony as sacred, have conjugal relations with one wife after another time and again…Despite what Jesus said was “one flesh”. Yes one flesh…so after Mary gives birth to the Son of Man (Messiah)….she & Joseph should respond like protestants and have conjugal relations… now that is gifted Logic…..? of Satan!
      Now since your error is so valid. PLEASE explain WHERE in scripture has Mary married. Yes she was espoused. yes Joseph took her into his home as his wife….Marriages went on for weeks in those days (aka Cana). Where did Mary go? for 3 months unitl John the Baptist was born? You have no idea where Joseph lived and worked when he was espoused. or Why? Do YOU! Given the actual facts provided….they could and DID live as brother and sister…. what VERSE SHOWS them married???? please fill in the holes for your lies with scripture….

      There is no record in Scripture of Joseph taking a vow of chastity.

      Instead, Scripture clearly states that Joseph did not “know” (have sex with) Mary UNTIL after Jesus was born (Matthew 1:25).

      Scripture never states that Mary took a vow of chastity.

      You asked where Scripture states that Mary was married…
      Matthew 1:20: But while he thought on these things, behold the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary THY WIFE: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.
      Matthew 1:24: Then Joseph, being raised from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him HIS WIFE.
      Matthew 13:55: Is this not the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? and his brothers, James and Joses and Simon and Judas?
      Luke 2:41-49 (New American Bible) Each year his parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, and when he was twelve years old, they went up according to festival custom. After they had completed its days, as they were returning, the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. Thinking that he was in the caravan, they journeyed for a day and looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances, but not finding him, they returned to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions, and all who heard him were astounded at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished, and his mother said to him, Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety. And he said to them, Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?

      Unless you want to say that (1) Scripture lied, or (2) Mary lied about her relationship to Joseph, then we have it on Mary’s authority, Luke’s authority, Matthew’s authority, and therefore the Holy Spirit’s authority that they were married.

      Marriages went on for weeks? I’m pretty sure you mean “wedding feasts.” Marriages last years. And that really doesn’t even come into the picture anyway, because 12 years after Jesus’ birth, Joseph was one of Jesus’ “parents” (according to the Catholic-approved Bible, the New American Bible), and everyone knew that Joseph and Mary were married, calling Joseph the dad, and Mary the mom.

      We do not deny what is written, nor what is not written, as you do! So stick to what is written! John the Apostles took Mary into his home….did you? Was this Jewish law? to ask non relatives to see after your mother? This is honoring our mother, giving her to a stranger when ACCORDING to you she had other sons???????? even if they were josephs (NOT!)

      I don’t know why you feel the need to ask if I personally took Mary into my home, when it is obvious that no one living today was alive back then. It’s just as logical to ask “Did you see Abraham Lincoln give the Gettysburg Address?”

      If you look at Scripture, you will see that Jesus did not leave Mary’s care to a non-relative. James and John were first cousins of Jesus. That connection is shown in some of the footnotes in the series on James that you’ve read.

      The people who knew Jesus identified him as the son of Joesph, the son of Mary, and that he had four (no more, no less) brothers, named in the Scripture quoted above. Do you really think that all the people in Galilee, who knew Jesus from His childhood, would only know to identify Him on the basis of four specific Jews who weren’t related to Him? (that seems to be your argument, based on your #3). And even if (as most Catholics do) you claim they are His cousins, you are still stuck with the problem of why it was that they were always seen with Mary instead of their own mother/father, and why it is that they are always called his “brothers” (Matthew 13:55, Acts 1, 1 Corinthians 9), and never “kinsmen” or “relatives,” words which are used by other biblical writers to describe relatives outside the immediate family.

      #3 . Jews live even today in cabutz calling each other brothers and sisters….

      I know what point you’re trying to make, but in doing so, you’re forced into the not-so-fun position of (1) never knowing what Scripture means by the word “brother,” and (2) Saying God is incapable of accurately conveying what He means with regards to something so simple as family relationship.

      #4. Did you NOT know Mary was a temple virgin with several other girls since the age of 3 yrs old, (as Joachim had VOWED to God) these virgin girls would be like her sisters as they lived in the temple until they were of age. Then married off to priests.

      This is nowhere recorded in Scripture. In fact, the idea of “temple virgins” comes from paganism, and is not at all found in Scripture. Additionally, as Mary was from the tribe of Judah (see genealogies in Matthew 1 and Luke 3), she wouldn’t have been able to serve in the temple anyway (let alone the fact that all those who served in the temple were men, according to God in His Scripture).

      #5 Vows to God mean nothing to you! or u wouldn’t be following some brand of Lutherism ( broke all of his) after he shot someone and hid out in a monastery, becoming an Augustinian – but disavowed St Augustine teaching EVEN before breaking his three Vows of Poverty, Chasity and OBEDIENCE. ( model citizens of Christ.)

      I have no love for Luther, his doctrines, his attitudes, or his practice. I can compare his teaching with the Scripture and see he taught a false gospel. The exact same thing goes for Augustine, whose doctrines also contradict the Scripture. Both of them led people away from the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

      But since you’ve not shown any Scripture of these supposed “vows” of chastity for Joseph and/or Mary, there’s really no point of comparison with Luther.

      #6 just like Luther bible alone and ONLY what you want it to say!….no other source is relevant ..unless you want to talk trash about the Church…. then you make stuff up. So stick to your scripture….not conjecture you know little of.

      If I only followed what I wanted the Bible to say, then my life would look FAR different, and I wouldn’t waste time reading the Bible, or preaching, or writing about biblical topics.

      I humbly ask whether you think the Bible is actually from God at all. Because if you do, I urge you to look at it, read it, believe what it says about itself.
      2 Timothy 3:16-17 (New American Bible) All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that one who belongs to God may be competent, equipped for every good work.
      If Scripture is enough to equip God’s people for EVERY good work, then that means outside sources aren’t needed. The Scriptures are sufficient to make us wise unto salvation (2 Timothy 3:15).

      Everything I have stated has been verified from God’s inspired Scripture. I re-read your comment and noticed that you didn’t include any Scripture. Why not?

      #7 Turns out, the Church was there….you weren’t…your testimony is gratuitous and puffery. and your constant failure to understand the Jewish culture causes these gross errors.

      Actually, the church wasn’t there. Joseph was dead and gone by the time Jesus died on the cross (otherwise He would have no need to leave Mary in the care of anyone else). And the church did not come into being until after Jesus had been resurrected. There was no church when Joseph and Mary were betrothed. There was no church when Jesus’ brothers were called His “brothers.” There was no church when Mary called Joseph “your father” and when they were called Jesus’ “parents.”

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