Getting to Know James and Philip
by Mark Allan Powell
The book of Acts records exciting stories about James, the brother of Jesus, and Philip, the evangelist, two early church leaders who were not among Jesus’ original disciples.
The gospels report that Jesus had four brothers—James, Joses, Judas and Simon—plus an unknown number of sisters whose names we are not told (Mark 6:3). The Roman Catholic Church teaches that Mary remained forever a virgin and, so, it regards the siblings of Jesus as adopted. Either way, they grew up in the household of Mary and Joseph and were known in the early church as “the brothers and sisters of the Lord.”
Since James is listed first among Jesus’ brothers, he is thought to have been the oldest. Apparently James did not believe in Jesus during the time of his brother’s ministry (John 7:5). Indeed, at one point, James and the other brothers attempted to seize Jesus and take him home for a forced retirement. They hoped to keep him from acting and speaking in ways that caused people to say he had gone crazy (Mark 3:21, 31–35). Recall the Gospel of John presents Jesus on the cross as choosing one of his disciples to care for his mother after his death, which seems like an affront to James and his other brothers ( John 19:25–27).
After Easter, circumstances changed. Paul mentions in 1 Corinthians that the risen Jesus appeared to James (15:7). Then, the book of Acts indicates that the brothers of Jesus were part of the early church in Jerusalem (Acts 1:14) and, apparently, were present for the great event on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1–4).
Mark Allan Powell, Ph.D., is the Robert and Phyllis Leatherman Professor of New Testament at Trinity Lutheran Seminary, Columbus, Ohio. He is editor of the HarperCollins Bible Dictionary and author of more than 100 articles and 25 books on the Bible and religion.
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