Saint James Characteristics

james z 2 edited edited
Characteristics of Apostle James the Greater

Characteristics of Apostle James (also referred to as Saint James by the Catholic church) made us understand that Apostle James was the son of Zebedee and in the same vein, of all the 12 apostles, he was the most obscure apostle, John’s brother, and he hailed from Galilee.

James was a fisherman with Peter and John and is always referred to in The Bible as the son of Zebedee to prevent confusion among other James in The Bible (there are many!).

According to the characteristics of the 12 Apostles, Jesus nicknamed both James and John “Sons of Thunder,” this nickname is thought to come from the fact that they both were such stormy personalities.

They were easily angered and quick to judge enemies of the Lord.

Apostle James’ Characteristics (The greater)


It seems that during the three years of Jesus’ ministry, James did not accept our Lord’s Messiahship. John tells us that none of Christ’s brothers believed in Him. How strange that James and his brothers should be so skeptical of Christ’s ministry when they were firsthand observers of His sinless life and His amazing miracles.

Mary and Joseph also, at times, found Christ’s behavior and actions hard to understand (see, for instance, Luke 2:50). Later, in one of the passages before us in this section, his brothers join their mother in seeking to restrain Christ—presumably because they, like Christ’s friends (v. 21), doubted His sanity. No wonder Jesus said, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own country and his own house.”

saint james the greater-giovanni de francesco-mba lyon b-936
Saint James the Greater-Giovanni de Francesco-MBA Lyon B-936


Although James was an eye-witness of Jesus’ character and ministry, it is fairly clear that he did not become a convinced believer until after Christ had died on the cross and risen from the dead.

This deduction—one shared by most evangelical commentators—is based on the fact that, following the resurrection, we are told that Jesus’ brothers gathered with the disciples in the Upper Room.

This view—that James became a convinced believer as a direct result of the resurrection—is further strengthened by the fact that in 1 Corinthians 15:7, reference is made to Christ’s post-resurrection appearance to James.

A new allegiance came into the hearts of James and his brothers following the resurrection.

Years of skepticism and unbelief gave way to deep faith and conviction.

saint james the greater
Saint James

Church leader

After the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, a church was formed in Jerusalem, headed, so it seems, by James, the brother of our Lord. The degree to which James had been transformed becomes quite evident when we see the honor and respect the early Christians gave to him.

As the leader of the church in Jerusalem, Saul of Tarsus conferred with him when he returned there after his encounter with Christ on the Damascus Road.

James, who presided over the famous ‘Jerusalem Council’ and delivered the ruling, later conveyed to the churches by letter that Gentiles coming into the Christian faith were not required to be circumcised or to keep the laws of Moses.

Author and Writer

Some scholars believe that the brother of our Lord did not author the letter of James because of how he introduces himself in the opening verse: “James, a servant of God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” If James, the Lord’s brother, wrote it, he would have affirmed this fact in his opening remarks.

However, such a view does not consider the tremendous impact that Christ’s death and resurrection made upon James. The writer is so taken up with the fact of Christ’s Lordship—”a servant of God and the Lord Jesus Christ”—that by comparison, the fact that he was Christ’s brother seems to be of no great importance. James rejoiced, not so much in his earthly relationship to Christ, but in his heavenly one.

james the great
James the Great

A Hotheaded Man

It was probably for this type of hotheaded rashness and fanaticism that the surname “Boanerges,” which means “Sons of Thunder,” was bestowed on them when they were ordained to the Twelve, MAR 3:17. Note, however, that there was some excuse for their action.

The impression left by the Transfiguration was still greatly upon them. They felt strongly that their Lord, whom they had just beheld “in His glory” with “His countenance altered” and “shining garments,” should not be subjected to such indignities by the Samaritans.

Upon the occasion of our Lord’s last journey to Jerusalem, the two brothers gave expression to this presumptuous rashness in a more selfish manner. They presumed their intimacy with Jesus and made the following request.

“And James and John, the two sons of Zebedee, came up to Him, saying to Him, ‘Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask of You.’ And He said to them, ‘What do you want Me to do for you?’ And they said to Him, ‘Grant that we may sit in Your glory, one on Your right, and one on Your left.’

But Jesus said to them,

‘You do not know what you are asking for. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?’

And they said to Him,

‘We are able.’

And Jesus said to them,

‘The cup that I drink you shall drink, and you shall be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized. But to sit on My right or on My left, this is not Mine to give; but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.'”

In Matthew 20:20; Matthew 20:21; Matthew 20:22; Matthew 20:23; Matthew 20:24; Matthew 20:25; Matthew 20:26; Matthew 20:27; Matthew 20:28, these words are put in their mother’s mouth, not directly from James and John. However, this request drew forth the rebuke of Jesus and moved the other ten with indignation”. And hearing this; the ten began to feel indignant with James and John.

characteristics of apostle james saint paul the apostle church (westerville, ohio) - stained glass, arcade, saint james the greater
Saint Paul the Apostle Church (Westerville, Ohio) - stained glass, arcade, Saint James the Greater

Summary Characteristics of Apostle James

Each of the synoptic Gospels identifies James as an early disciple of Jesus. James, the son of Zebedee, often called James the Greater to distinguish him from the other apostle named James, was a member of Christ’s inner circle, which included his brother, the apostle John, and Peter.

Not only did James and John earn a special nickname from the Lord — “sons of thunder” — they were privileged to be at the front and center of three supernatural events in the life of Christ.

Scroll to Top