St. James the Less

Since there are two apostles named James, they are traditionally identified as James the Greater and James the Lesser. James the Lesser is generally believed to have been the shorter, younger or simply the less well known of the two. James the Lesser is often identified in the Gospels as James, the son of Alphaeus. (Yaqov bar Hilfai) Alphaeus is thought to be a Greek form of the Aramaic Cleopas, who is identified as either the brother of St. Joseph or brother-in-law of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Either of these would make his sons the cousins of Our Lord, so James the Less is often conflated with James the Just, the “brother” of Jesus.

If this is the case, following the Ascension, James stayed in Jerusalem where he led the community of Jewish believers, who kept the Torah laws and believed it was necessary to do so for salvation. In this, he came into conflict with St. Paul, who stated that Gentiles who did became Christians did not have to follow the Torah. The issue was resolved in A.D. 50 by the Apostles and presbyters (elders) at the Council of Jerusalem where, after some discussion and a statement by St. Peter, James publically changed his mind on the issue. At some point, he also wrote the Epistle of James, one of the catholic epistles (not addressed to a specific group).

According to the historian Josephus, James was killed in A.D 62. Knowing him to be a strict follower of the Torah, a group of priests and Pharisees urged him to address the people during Passover from the parapet of the Temple and inform them about “the truth concerning Jesus.” James did so, preached to the people that Jesus was the Christ and the Son of God. In anger, the Pharisees rushed up to the parapet and flung James down into the courtyard of the Temple where some of the people began to stone him. Finally, he was killed when someone struck him in the head with a fuller’s club. Many people believed that the attack and eventual conquest of Jerusalem by the Romans was God’s punishment for the unjust killing of James the Just.

Some scholars, however, have questioned the identification of James bar Alphaeus with James the Just, “brother” of Jesus. The reason for this is that the “brethren” of Our Lord, particularly James, are said to have not believed in Him until after His Resurrection.  While it is not entirely impossible, it would be highly unlikely for an unbeliever to be an apostle. Secondly, there is no mention of James the Less (or Simon the Zealot, Jude Thadaeus or Matthew, who are often identified with the Lord’s brethren as well) as being a “brother” of the Lord, which seems unusual if they, in fact, were.

If James the Less is not the same person as James the Just, brother of the Lord, then we know nothing about St. James the Less except that he was an apostle and is believed to have died a martyr’s death by stoning.


St. Phillip

St. Phillip has a bit more significant role than St. James, at least in the Gospel according to St. John. He was apparently a follower of St. John the Baptist before following Christ and is usually seen leading people to Jesus. He leads his friend Nathaniel to meet Jesus and later leads a group of Greeks to speak with Him. This makes sense because Phillip has a Greek name and possibly spoke Greek himself. Phillip is also the apostle who tells Jesus how much money it would cost to feed the 5,000. At the Last Supper, Phillip asks Jesus to show them the Father.

Like St. James the Less, Phillip is often conflated with another New Testament figure who shares his name. This Phillip, often called the Evangelist, also ministered to non-Jews. He ran alongside the chariot of an Ethiopian eunuch whom he overheard reading a scroll of the prophet Isaiah and after instructing him about Christ, baptizes him. Later, he preaches the Gospel in Samaria, where his miracles gained many converts, including Simon Magus.

It is even less likely that Phillip the Apostle and Phillip the Evangelist are the same person than it is that James the Less and James the Just are the same person. Phillip the Evangelist is often identified with Phillip, one of the original seven deacons. Because there deacons were ordained in order to lessen the Apostle’s burden of ministering to the widows of Hellenistic Jews, it makes little lessen for Phillip to both an apostle and a deacon. Furthermore, while Phillip is able to baptize many converts in Samaria, he waits for Peter and John to arrive in order to “bring the gift of the Holy Spirit by the laying on of hands.” Since this is very clearly the earliest reference to the sacrament of Confirmation, usually administered by a bishop, a successor of the Apostles, it makes zero sense for Phillip to have to wait for Peter and John to arrive to administer it if he himself were also an apostle.

According to tradition, Phillip was martyred by being crucified, possibly upside down, in the city of Hierapolis.