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James the Lesser

There are two apostles named James mentioned in the Bible: James the Greater and James the Lesser. The descriptions of the two men do not mean that the second James was not as great as the first one—the description was merely used to distinguish the two James with the second one as the younger or smaller between them. He was also titled the Lesser because he was called much later by Jesus than James the Greater as an apostle.

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“Statue of St. James the Less in the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran by Angelo de Rossi.”

James the Lesser was the son of Alphaeus (Matt. 10:3; Mark 3:8; Luke 6:15) while James the Greater was the son of Zebedee. His mother was Mary of Cleophas (sister of Jesus’ mother) according to 5th-century theologian Jerome and 1st-century bishop Papias of Hierapolis. He was also identified as the brother of Jude Thaddeus and possibly one of Jesus’ brothers (according to Galatians 1:19 and again according to Jerome).

Readers of the Bible can only find a few verses about James the Lesser and what he did for the early church. He was one of the apostles who witnessed Christ’s resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:7), a confidante of Peter when he was on the run from Herod Agrippa (Acts 12:17), and later rose to prominence in the church along with the other apostles (Acts 15; 21:18; Galatians 2:9). He was also credited as the writer of the Epistle of James.

According to Roman historian Eusebius, James became the bishop of Jerusalem but was killed by the Jewish mob after the successful appeal of Paul to Caesar in 62 AD. He was thrown down from a parapet and clubbed to death after he refused to abandon the Christian faith. His feast day is on the 1st of May along with Phillip the Evangelist.

References:
Ropes, James H. Epistle of St. James International Critical Commentary Volume 41 of International Critical Commentary on the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. A&C Black, 2000
Eusebius, and Paul L. Maier. Eusebius–the Church History: A New Translation with Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1999
http://www.catholictradition.org/Saints/feast-days.htm
Picture By JastrowOwn work, CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2845668

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