13 Jesus went up the mountain and called to him those whom he wanted, and they came to him. 14 And he appointed twelve, whom he also named apostles, to be with him, and to be sent out to proclaim the message, 15and to have authority to cast out demons. 16 So he appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); 17 James son of Zebedee and John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder); 18 and Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Cananaean, 19 and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

Then Jesus went home; 20 and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat. 21When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, ‘He has gone out of his mind.’

His disciples followed him. 2 On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, ‘Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! 3 Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?’ And they took offence at him. 4 Then Jesus said to them, ‘Prophets are not without honour, except in their home town, and among their own kin, and in their own house.’

Mark 3:13ff & 6:1ff

Ask your average Christian to name the twelve apostles…

Ask your average church leader (priest, pastor, bishop) to name the twelve apostles – I mean, without looking this up…

Ask your average Christian or church leader to name the brothers and sisters of Jesus… [yes, I know, in part a trick question…]

There is considerable confusion about the different people called “James” in the New Testament, as well as the relationship of this James and Jesus. He is called the “brother of the Lord”, James the Just (out of respect for his piety and strict observance of the Law) or James Protepiscopus (First Bishop of Jerusalem). The Epistle of James and the Liturgy of St. James are attributed to him.

According to Josephus “the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James” met his death after the death of the procurator Porcius Festus, yet before Lucceius Albinus took office (Jewish Antiquities 20,9).

Mary (“Miriam”), Jesus’ mother, bears the same name as Moses’ sister, a strong woman. She is married to Joseph – another name from the early period in Genesis. The names of the rest of the family are also names reminiscent of the early history of liberation. Jesus (Joshua = “God saves/liberates/sets free”), James (Jacob), Joseph, Simon (Simeon), Judas (Judah). Jesus had at least two sisters. It is also significant that we don’t know their names!

Does your family go in for royal names (George, James, Henry, William, Elizabeth, Anne)? Famous sportspeople? Jesus’ family seemed to choose early liberation names. Jesus’ family chose names from the foundational deliverance stories of their nation. You can imagine what the Roman oppressors thought of people with names like this.

When the new Joshua (Jesus) crosses the Jordan (baptism) from the far side (Jn 1:28), re-entering the Promised Land, one can imagine the emails that hit Pontius Pilate’s PC from the equivalent of MI5 or the SIS. This is someone to keep an eye on!

untangle the different biblical James here

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