James son of Zebedee

James son of Zebedee (Hebrew: Yaakov ben ZavdiGreek: Iakōbos ton tou Zebedaiou) was born c. AD 12 (3772–3773 in the Hebrew calendar) in the Roman district of Galilee. He was a fisherman  with his father Zebedee and his brother John (cf. Matt. 4:21; 10:2; Mark 1:19), who were the business partners of Simon Peter (cf. Luke 5:10). When Jesus called James and John to join his twelve apostles, they still had an enterprising mindset. He nicknamed them the "sons of thunder" (Greek:  BoanergesG993, from Aramaic ben and regeshH1123 and  H7285) after they tried to gain places of honor in God's kingdom (cf. Matt. 20:20Mark 3:17; 10:35-37). James and John were also known for their fervor, especially when they called for Jesus to destroy the Samaritan villages that rejected him (cf. Luke 9:54).

Inner Circle of Jesus

James was part of Jesus' inner circle alongside John and Peter. Interestingly, they were often the only apostles to witness some of his supernatural wonders (e.g., raising Jairus' daughter from the dead [cf. Mark 5:2235-37]). James traveled with Peter and John on a mountain, where they each saw Jesus transfigured and watched him speak to the Moses and Elijah (cf. Matt. 17:1-3; Mark 9:1-5; Luke 9:27-30). Jesus would allow his inner circle of Peter, James, John, and Andrew to discreetly ask about the Jerusalem temple's demise. He rewarded their honest search for truth by foreshadowing the immediate and future events of the end times (cf. Mark 13:3-37).

James: First Martyr of the Apostles

In the Acts of the Apostles, Luke of Antioch wrote, "About that time King Herod laid violent hands upon some who belonged to the church. He had James, the brother of John, killed with the sword. After he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also [during the festival of Unleavened Bread]" (cf. 12:1-3). 


Blessed are you, LORD our God, King of the universe, your servant and apostle James was first among the twelve to suffer martyrdom for the name of Jesus: Pour out upon the leaders of your church that spirit of self-denying service, by which they may have true authority among your people; through Jesus the Messiah our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.


The Book of Common Prayer. Huntington Beach, CA: Anglican Liturgy Press, 2019. p. 630.  http://bcp2019.anglicanchurch.net/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/BCP2019.pdf.

Houdmann, S. Michael. "What Can We Learn from What the Bible Says About James the Apostle?" Colorado Springs: Got Questions, 2022. https://www.gotquestions.org/James-the-apostle.html.

⸻. "Why Did Jesus Refer to James and John as the Sons of Thunder?"  https://www.gotquestions.org/sons-of-thunder.html.


Kranz, Jeffrey. The Beginner's Guide to the Bible. Bellingham, WA: OverviewBible, 2020.


Nelson, Ryan. "Who Was Saint James? The Beginner's Guide." Bellingham, WA: OverviewBible, 2019. https://overviewbible.com/saint-james.

Strong, James. Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible: Updated and Expanded Edition. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2007.