The Least Known Apostle: James the Son of Alphaeus

Among the twelve apostles were at least two groups of brothers: Peter and Andrew, and James and John, but it’s possible there was a third pair. Remember, Matthew is also called Levi:

And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him (Mark 2:14).

He is identified as “the son of Alphaeus.” Likewise, in Mark 3:18, James is also called “the son of Alphaeus.” While it’s possible there were two apostles whose fathers were named Alphaeus, is it also possible these two were also brothers? But, if so, why aren’t they identified as such? Do you remember the list of apostles is divided into three groups of four? The first four are always the same in each of the lists: Peter, Andrew, James, and John. The second four are always the same: Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, and Matthew, and the last four are always the same: James, Simon the Zealot, Thaddaeus, and Judas. Within those groups of four, the order of names varies, but they are always the same four. What ties them together in their groupings?

It has been said that the last four were revolutionaries. We know for a fact that Simon was a Zealot – a Jewish revolutionary, and many believe Judas was too (depending on the meaning of “Iscariot). It’s not a big step to believe James and Thaddaeus were as well. If that is so, then it would explain why Matthew and James, the sons of Alphaeus, were separated. One was a revolutionary, and the other was a tax collector – a traitor. They were a family divided, but the love of Christ, and his calling, brought them together again. Perhaps I’m becoming too speculative, but it is a precious thought.

Sadly, the rest of the story of James, the son of Alphaeus, is lost in the shadows of James, the famous brother of Jesus, and James, the brother of John, who was the first apostle to die. His story became confused with these more famous disciples and is lost. It is possible he was crucified at Ostrakine in Lower Egypt, but the details are not certain.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *