James, son of Alpheus – not to be confused with James, son of Zebedee – is a disciple that is mentioned in three of the four gospels: Matthew, Mark and Luke. In the Church, he is also identified as James the Less, the Minor, or the Younger depending on the translation. “Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joseph, and Salome.” (Mark 15:40 NIV)
The word “less” does not imply James was less worthy than James the Greater. Instead, it may refer to his age or his height. Although there are very few mentions of James the Less in the Bible, his importance is equal to that of the other disciples. “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” (Matthew 19:28)
Like most of the other disciples, James came from Galilee, which at the time was part of the Roman Empire. How he came to be chosen as Jesus’ disciple is missing from the Bible. There is also confusion about who James was since some scholars debate he may also have been Jesus’ brother, James the Just. The consensus, however, is they were two separate people.
Sadly, very little is known about James. After King Herod killed James the Greater, Peter who had been arrested escaped and said to Mary the mother of John, “Tell James and the other brothers and sisters about this.” (Acts 12:17) Since James the Greater was dead, this James could either be James the Less or James the Just. Unfortunately, there is no clarification in the Bible.
James the Less’s death was recorded by the 2nd-century theologian Hippolytus. “And James the son of Alphaeus, when preaching in Jerusalem was stoned to death by the Jews, and was buried there beside the temple.” James the Just, the brother of Jesus, is also believed to have died the same way, thus adding to the confusion about their identity. On the other hand, James the Less is traditionally believed to have preached at Ostrakine in Lower Egypt. Many believe he was crucified there.
In Art, James is usually depicted with a fuller’s club, implying he may have been involved with woollen clothmaking before he became an apostle. Occasionally, he is depicted with a carpenter’s saw, suggesting an alternative trade.
Just for fun, here are the items that have Saint James the Less as their patron. Some, you will notice, are related to clothmaking and others to medicine – another potential career, perhaps?
We are happy for you to use any material found here, however, please acknowledge the source: www.gantshillurc.co.uk
Rev'd Martin Wheadon