Everyone knows about the apostles named James in the New Testament — James, son of Zebedee; and James, son of Alphaeus. But who is this ‘Little James’? Let’s unpick this lesser-known biblical character and explore his place in Christian theology and tradition.
Introducing Little James
In the annals of Biblical history, James is a common name, making it a tad confusing to distinguish between these figures. Known as ‘Little James’ or James the Less, he is one of the Twelve Apostles in the New Testament, often identified as James, son of Alphaeus (Matthew 10:3; Mark 3:18; Acts 1:13).
Understanding His Title
‘Little James’ may be a confusing moniker. Over the years, theologians have interpreted it to reference his stature, age, or seniority. Scholars suggest that ‘Less’ or ‘Little’ might have referred to his height or even his significance in comparison to James, son of Zebedee, one of the foremost apostles. These interpretations add richness to our understanding of this apostle’s lore and identity.
Biblical References and Contributions
James the Less does not have significant individual contributions in the Gospels as the other apostle named James does. Yet, being part of the initial group of apostles, he shares in the foundational work of Christianity. His silent contribution is inscribed in the collective actions and teachings of the apostles, contributing to the overall Christian theology and formation of the early Christian church.
The Epistle of James: Is there a Link?
One of the intriguing mysteries has been whether ‘Little James’ wrote the Epistle of James in the New Testament. Scholars have debated this, with many attributing the epistle to James, brother of Jesus. This debate underlines the complexity of distinguishing between the various figures named James in the Bible.
Relevance to Christians Today
While ‘Little James’ might not have a prominent role in the Gospels, he has much to teach us. His humble yet crucial role reflects the importance of collective action in achieving Christ’s mission. Whether in a leading role like James, son of Zebedee, or a less prominent one like ‘Little James’, every believer has a critical role in living out and spreading the Gospel message.
‘Little James’ in the Bible might be a lesser-known apostle, yet his contributions and presence as one amongst the first group of apostles are unmistakable. As we explore his identity and understand his role in the early Christian Church, we see a reflection of the diverse roles believers play in maintaining and furthering the Christian faith. More than his deeds or words, it is this idea that makes his character resonate with Christians today.