James the Greater

James the Greater was a son of Zebedee and the Elder brother of Saint John. James and John and Peter were the three who were closest to Jesus, the inner circle of the three disciples and special companions to the Lord. James was among these which witnessed the transfiguration, the agony in the Garden of Gethsemene and the healing of Jarius' daughter. He was called the Greater to distinguish him from the other disciple James, called the less because he was younger and shorter. By birth James was a Galilean, and by trade a fisherman in business with his father, together with John, Peter and Andrew. He probably lived at Bethsaida, where St. Peter also lived at that time. James was not with his brother John as a disciple of the Baptist but in Galilee and not called till some time later.

His mother's name was Salome. She also was devoted to Jesus and was one of the women who anointed Jesus' body with spices after the crucifixion. Salome was a cousin germane to the Virgin Mary. James and John were Boanerges, the "Sons of Thunder", Salome had asked a special place in the Kingdom for them to sit at his right and left hand. James and John had also asked for it themselves, to the displeasure of the other disciples. "You know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them," Jesus told them, "and their great ones exercise authority upon them. But so shall it not be amongst you: but whoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: and whoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all."

James, like his brother John, was originally a man of hot and sudden temper. But in that temper was a fire which could forge an unbreakable devotion. James never emerges, he never does anything by himself, never says anything but later laid down his life for the Lord. According to a tradition of Spain, James made an evangelizing visit there and it is said that he traveled all over Spain. Others say he never left Judea. His symbol in church art is three shells representing the pilgrimages.

James was the first of the twelve to be martyred and suffered at Jerusalem in the reign of king Herod Agrippa I, AD 43 or 44, 14 years after the Ascension and 10 years after the death of Stephen. When the Roman Emperor Claudia issued his decree forbidding Jewish worship in Rome, Christians fell under this ban since they were still considered a Jewish sect. Oppression of the Christians in Judea under Herod Agrippa resulted in the execution of Saint James the Greater by the sword and he was decapitated. This pleased the Jews and Peter was taken also, but escaped from prison through an angel. Peter was delivered but James was not - Why? Work over.

James the greater became the patron saint of Spain from the legends about the removal of his body to Iria Flavia.
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