James the Apostle

James, son of Zebedee (Hebrew: יַעֲקֹב‎ Yaʿqob, Greek: Ἰάκωβος; died 44 AD) was one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus, and traditionally considered the first apostle to be martyred. He was a son of Zebedee and Salome, and brother of John the Apostle. He is also called James the Greater or James the Great to distinguish him from James, son of Alphaeus and James the brother of Jesus (James the Just). James the son of Zebedee is the patron saint of Spaniards, and as such is often identified as Santiago.

The son of Zebedee and Salome, James is styled “the Greater” to distinguish him from the Apostle James “the Less”. He was the brother of John, the beloved disciple, and probably the elder of the two.

His parents seem to have been people of means. Zebedee, his father, was a fisherman of the Sea of Galilee, who probably lived in or near Bethsaida, present Galilee, Israel, perhaps in Capernaum, and had some boatmen or hired men. Salome, his mother, was one of the pious women who afterwards followed Christ and “ministered unto him of their substance”, and his brother John was personally known to the high-priest, and must have had wherewithal to provide for the Mother of Jesus.

It is probable that his brother had not received the technical training of the rabbinical schools; in this sense they were unlearned and without any official position among the Jews. But, according to the social rank of their parents, they must have been men of ordinary education, in the common walks of Jewish life. James is described as one of the first disciples to join Jesus. The Synoptic Gospels state that James and John were with their father by the seashore when Jesus called them to follow him. [Matt. 4:21-22][Mk. 1:19-20] James was one of only three apostles whom Jesus selected to bear witness to his Transfiguration. James and John (or, in another tradition, their mother) asked Jesus to grant them seats on his right and left in his glory. Jesus rebuked them, and the other ten apostles were annoyed with them. James and his brother wanted to call down fire on a Samaritan town, but were rebuked by Jesus. [Lk 9:51-6] The Acts of the Apostles records that “Herod the king” (traditionally identified with Herod Agrippa) had James executed by sword. He is the only apostle whose martyrdom is recorded in the New Testament. He is, thus, traditionally believed to be the first of the twelve apostles martyred for his faith. [Acts 12:1-2] Nixon suggests that this may have been caused by James’ fiery temper, for which he and his brother earned the nickname Boanerges or “Sons of Thunder”. [Mark 3:17] F. F. Bruce contrasts this story to that of the Liberation of Saint Peter, and notes that “James should die while Peter should escape” is a “mystery of divine providence”.

The English name “James” comes from Italian “Giacomo”, a variant of “Giacobo” derived from Iacobus (Jacob) in Latin, itself from the Greek Ἰάκωβος “Iakōbos”, from Hebrew יַעֲקֹב. In French, Jacob evolves into “Jacques”. In eastern Spain, Iacobus (Jacobus) became “Jacome” or “Jaime”; in Catalan language, it became “Jaume”. Santiago is the local Galician or Spanish (Castilian) evolution of Vulgar Latin Sanctu Iacobu “Saint James”. “Tiago” is a popular deglutination native to Portuguese language (santiago > san-tiago = São Tiago); it crossed with old Diago to give “Diego” in Spanish and “Diogo” in Portuguese, which is also the Spanish name of Saint Didacus of Alcalá.[citation needed] For example, Miguel de Cervantes in his famous Don Quixote uses “San Diego” instead of “Santiago”.

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