According to St. Paul, Jesus brother James was a Christian apostle who died in A.D. 62 in Jerusalem. He was not one of the original Twelve Apostles. Nevertheless, he was the leader of the Jerusalem Christians and one of the “pillars of the church.” Along with Saints Peter and John the Evangelist.
Jesus brother James: The First of Twelve Apostles to Be Martyred
Jesus brother James was one of the first twelve disciples. When Jesus summoned the brothers, James and John were fishermen on the Sea of Galilee. Along with their father, Zebedee. They left their father and business immediately to follow the young rabbi. Because James is always mentioned first, he is most likely the older of the two brothers.
Jesus invited James, John, and Peter three times to witness events that no one else saw: Jairus’ daughter’s resurrection from the dead (Mark 5:37-47), the transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-3), and Jesus’ agony in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-37).
However, James was not above making errors. When a Samaritan village rejected Jesus, he and John wished to summon fire from heaven. This earned them the nickname ‘Boanerges’ or ‘sons of thunder.’ The mother of James and John went too far when she asked Jesus to give her sons unique places in his kingdom.
Because of his devotion to Jesus, James was the first of the twelve apostles to be martyred. Around 44 A.D., he was executed by the sword on the orders of King Herod Agrippa I of Judea as part of a general persecution of the early church.
A Son of Thunder: The Son of the Father of Jesus
Jesus brother James was the son of Zebedee and Salome (Mk 15:40; c Mt 27:56) and the brother of John, the evangelist. James was born in Bethsaida on Lake Tiberias. He was one of Jesus’ first disciples, along with his brother, and was eager to follow him (Mk 1:19f; Mt 4:21f; Lk 5:10).
He is always grouped with the first three Apostles (Mk 3:17; Mt 10:2; Lk 6:14; Acts 1:13). Like his brother, he has a quick and impetuous personality and is nicknamed “Boànerghes” (sons of thunder) by Jesus (Mk 3:17; Lk 9:52-56). He is one of Jesus’ most beloved disciples, along with his brother, Peter and Andrew.
They will witness the Transfiguration of Jesus on Mount Tabor (Mk 9:2-8; Lk 9:28-36), the resurrection of Jairus’ daughter (Mk 5:37-43; Lk 8:51-56); he will witness the sudden healing of Peter’s mother-in-law (Mk 1:29-31); and he will question Jesus about the signs of the times foretelling the end with the other three apostles (Mk 13:1-8). Finally, on the eve of the Passion, Jesus summons him and Peter and John to Keep Vigil in Gethsemane (Mk 14:33ff; Mt 27:37f).
With zealous zeal, he had requested that fire be rained down on the Samaritans who had refused to welcome Jesus, deserving of a rebuke (Lk 9:51-56).
Evangelizer of Spain according to tradition and devotion
According to a tradition dating back to Isidore of Seville, Jesus brother James went to Spain to spread the Gospel. There was a brisk trade in minerals such as tin, gold, iron, and copper from Galicia to the shores of Palestine during James’ time. On return trips, ornamental objects, marble slabs, spices, and other products purchased in Alexandria and other even more commercially important eastern ports were brought.
One of these ships is thought to have carried the Apostle from Palestine to Spain. Landing on the coast of Andalusia, where he began his preaching. He continued his evangelizing mission in Coimbra and Braga. Passing through Iria Flavia in the Hispanic Finis Terrae, where he continued preaching according to tradition.
The evangelization of “Hispania” and the western regions is attributed to Jesus brother James for the first time in the Breviary of the Apostles (late 6th century). Again, his role as an extraordinary instrument for spreading the apostolic tradition is emphasized, as is his burial in Arca Marmárica.
Later, in the second half of the seventh century, a learned English monk known as the Venerable Bede mentions this event again in his work and pinpoints with startling accuracy the location in Galicia where the Apostle’s body would be discovered.
The Apparition of the Virgin Mary and the Return to the Holy Land
The return to the Holy Land took place along the Roman road of Lugo across the Peninsula. Passing through Astorga and Zaragoza, where, discouraged, James received the consolation and comfort of the Virgin, who appeared to him on the banks of the Ebro River atop a Roman quartz column, and asked him to build a church there (according to tradition on Jan. 2, 40).
This event explained the origins of Zaragoza’s Church of Nuestra Senora del Pilar. Now a basilica and a critical Marian shrine in Spanish Catholicism. Jesus brother James most likely traveled across the Ebro to Valencia before embarking at a port in the provinces of Murcia or Andalusia and returning to Palestine between 42 and 44 A.D.
The last years in Palestine
Now in Palestine, Jesus brother James and the “Twelve” became pillars of the Primitive Church in Jerusalem. Playing an essential role within the Christian community of the Holy City. We know the apostles were forbidden to preach in a climate of great religious unrest. The desire to eradicate incipient Christianity was growing by the day.
Despite this prohibition, James spread his evangelizing message throughout the city, entering synagogues and discussing the prophets’ words. In his evangelizing mission, he was one of the most closely followed apostles due to his excellent communication skills, debate, and attractive personality.
Also, to appease the religious authorities’ protests, please the Jews, and deal a severe blow to the Christian community. Herod Agrippa I, king of Judea, chose him as a very representative figure and sentenced him to death by beheading. As a result, he becomes the APOSTOLIC COLLEGE’S FIRST MARTIRE.
But the last report from the New Testament is of St. James the Greater’s martyrdom. According to legend, the scribe Josias was assigned to accompany James to the torture. Witnesses a miracle of healing a person with paralysis who invokes the saint. Josias, troubled and repentant, converts to Christianity and begs forgiveness from the Apostle.
Popular tradition and the cult of Jesus brother James relics
According to popular belief, the body of Jesus brother James was found in the peaks near the valley of Padrón. There was a water cult. Going up the mountain, halfway up the flank. There is also a church where the Apostle prayed and said mass.
Also, under the high altar, a spring rich in water. The coldest and gentlest I have experienced in Galicia protrudes out of the church. Ambrosio de Morales wrote in the 16th century in his work the Holy Journey.
This location still exists today and is known affectionately as “O Santiaguio do Monte.” About St. James’ preaching in Galicia, one of the authors of the sermons collected in the Calixtine Codex writes. “He whom the people go to worship, James, son of Zebedee, the land of Galicia sends to the starry sky.”