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In Search of the Apostles, James the 'son of Thunder'
"James son of Zebedee"
First to find Jesus
One of the first four followers of Jesus. We first meet him on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, mending the nets with his younger brother John and his father Zebedee. Then along comes this young ‘preacher’ by the name of ‘Yeshua bin Yusef’ (Jesus son of Joseph) who simply says “Follow me and I’ll make you fishers of men” and straight away they down tools and follow him right?
Yeah right! Sorry but for me it just doesn’t happen that way! It’s the story that the Synoptic gospels have, but thankfully the one who was actually there gives a bit of a different slant to the story.
See as the younger ‘brothers’ John and Andrew (Andrew’s brother was Simon Peter, possibly the oldest of the disciples and was already married as the story unfolds, so he would have been at least in his late twenties and probably early thirties) were able to leave the family ‘business’ from time to time and spend some time with another ‘wandering prophet’ in the Desert, they were actually disciples of John the Baptist and were there at the time when John saw Jesus coming down to be Baptized, they were the source of the stories of the ‘voice from heaven’ and the words of John.
Who was he really?
According to the catholic encyclopedia James, John and Jesus may have been cousins related through their mothers. If that’s so then it does explain some of the things in the gospels and how they may have known each other.
James appears quite a few times in the Gospels and almost every time he’s there with Peter and John, they were Jesus’ inner circle of disciples, occasionally we read of Andrew being there with them, but not always, it was Peter, James and John who were there at the transfiguration, they were the ones who got ‘front row seats’ at the healing of Jairus’ daughter as Jesus brought her back from the dead.
51 When he arrived at the house, he would not let anyone go in with him except Peter, John, and James, and the child's father and mother.52 Everyone there was crying and mourning for the child. Jesus said, “Don't cry; the child is not dead—she is only sleeping!”
53 They all made fun of him, because they knew that she was dead.54 But Jesus took her by the hand and called out, “Get up, child!” 55 Her life returned, and she got up at once, and Jesus ordered them to give her something to eat. 56 Her parents were astounded, but Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone what had happened.
I have to admit the whole idea of the people making fun of Jesus sounds strange to us, but then again, coming back from the dead sounded (and sometimes still sounds) strange so I can understand why they did.
Jesus actually gave ‘nicknames’ to his ‘inner circle’ of three. Simon he called Peter, which in itself is significant as the name ‘Simon’ means a ‘pebble’ but ‘Peter’ means a rock or boulder! Later tradition would claim that’s to do with his being the foundation of the church, but maybe that’s more to do with him becoming a ‘pillar’ they would need to rely on, something he hadn’t ‘become’ yet.
James and John got the name “Boanagernes” literally meaning ‘sons of thunder’ relating to a story where a village had rejected Jesus, James and John were so enraged they screamed, “Okay Lord, Nuke ‘em!” (Luke 9 verse 51-4) Naturally Jesus didn’t take their advice.
51 As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; 53 but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. 54 When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them[a]?”55 But Jesus turned and rebuked them. 56 Then he and his disciples went to another village.
James and John were fishermen on this 'lake' In Roman records it was known as the 'Lake of Tiberius'
Traditional site of James' execution
Tradition has it his remains were brought here. His shrine is here in Spain.
Santiago De Compostela
Listen to the full story of the pilgrimage
I was going just to write about James the Apostle, but then I found this video on YouTube telling the full story of how the pilgrimage came about, I'd encourage you all to take the time to watch it as learn why so many people even today walk 'The way of St James'
It's a pilgrimage that is still performed the same way that it was originally performed back in early medieval times. you can literally 'walk the pilgrimage' without leaving your armchair! HOW COOL IS THAT?
Carrying on the story
There actually isn’t that much in the Bible about James after Jesus’ ascension into heaven, but it does indicate some things. One is that he and John seem to have had a bit of a temper, another was that they really wanted the best places in heaven, but it’s not them that ask for it, it’s their MUM!
Yep, James and John’s mother is right there with the disciples as they walk towards Jerusalem in that final encounter, she’s right there with them walking along and learning from the teaching of Jesus.
20 The mother of Zebedee’s children (James and John) came to Jesus with her sons. She got down on her knees before Jesus to ask something of Him. 21 He said to her, “What do you want?” She said, “Say that my two sons may sit, one at Your right side and one at Your left side, when You are King.” 22 Jesus said to her, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to take the suffering that I am about to take? (*Are you able to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?)”They said, “Yes, we are able.” 23 He said to them, “You will suffer as I will suffer. But the places at My right side and at My left side are not Mine to give. Whoever My Father says will have those places.”
Okay. So that explains a bit of who he was, but aren’t we supposed to be finding out about what happened to him?
James the brother of John is the one follower of Jesus (apart from Judas that is!) that the Bible tells us what happened to him, but that hasn’t stopped legends and stories growing up about what happened either to him or to his ‘mortal remains’
12 It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. 2 He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword. 3 When he saw that this met with approval among the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also. This happened during the Festival of Unleavened Bread. 4 After arresting him, he put him in prison, handing him over to be guarded by four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring him out for public trial after the Passover.
Peter and James get arrested, James is executed in a brutal way, but Peter is left until the next day, possibly Herod’s trying to gauge whether he can get away with putting ‘these two trouble causers’ to death and deal with a potential problem for both Rome and the local authorities.
It was around 44 AD and the church had been growing steadily but was still pretty much centered in Jerusalem and Judea with a few congregations among the Jews in the Diaspora, possibly there are churches in Antioch and maybe even Rome, possibly Thomas is already on his way to India but there’s just no way of knowing what the timeline was like.
James though was one of the top three of the Apostles in Jerusalem that alone probably made him a target! John was probably still in Samaria and out of the reach for Herod Agrippa, but Peter and James were a different story.
How did he die?
I’ve always thought it was by being ‘run through’ with the sword, but apparently Herod had a special thing arranged for James. He met the same fate that his original mentor met in that he was beheaded on the site that the cathedral of St James in Jerusalem is now built.
James wasn’t a ‘criminal’ as such and therefore couldn’t be executed in the Roman fashion of crucifixion, but it wasn’t a religious execution either and therefore wasn’t by stoning, this left only one other method of execution that we know was carried out at that time, beheading!
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Santiago De Compostela
Just like all the Apostles the fact that you’re the first to be martyred doesn’t mean that legends can’t grow up about you, and by the 12th Century that’s what happened, it’s around then that the first time that the story of ‘Santiago de Compostela’ started to emerge.
The Legend basically says that St James (the Greater as he was known in the Medieval church) was either resurrected or his mortal remains were transported to the coast of western ‘Hispania’ as Spain was then known where they were ‘entombed’ in a secret location that was later revealed by a dream.
The legend goes on to say that St James before his beheading had carried out a mission to evangelize ‘Hispania’ and had planted the infant church there.
How the church got to Spain isn’t really known apart from St Paul’s desire that once he’d been set free from prison in Rome he wanted to visit there, some see his claim of ‘not wanting to build on another’s foundation’ as being a claim that the gospel hadn’t yet reached the furthest Western reaches of the Empire, but either way the evidence is ‘flimsy’ at best and the only thing we can say is that by the end of first century the church was well established in all provinces of the Empire and well beyond it.
Somehow and in some way St James the ‘Greater’ came to be associated with Spain, some say it’s because of the tradition that he evangelized there, while others say it’s because of the later Muslim incursions and the Christians there putting together a story of the ‘fiery tempered Apostle’ and his relics being used to drive the Muslim Armies back out of Northern Spain, but either way he is celebrated in Spain as their ‘Apostle’