Surnamed the greater, or the elder, to distinguish him from James the younger, was one of the twelve apostles, brother of John the evangelist, and son of Zebedee and Salome, Matthew 4:21 27:56. Compare Mark 15:40. James was of Bethsaida in Galilee, and left his earthly occupation to follow Christ, Mark 1:29,20. His mother Salome was one of those women who occasionally attended our Savior in his journeys, and one day desired that her two sons might be seated at his right and left hand in the kingdom, Matthew 20:20-23.
James and John were originally fishermen, with Zebedee their father, Mark 1:19. They were witnesses of our Lord’s transfiguration, Matthew 17:1,2; and when certain Samaritans refused to receive him, James and John wished for fire from heaven to consume them, Luke 9:54. For this reason, or because of their zeal and energy as ministers of Christ, the name of Boanerges, or sons of thunder, was afterwards given to them, Mark 3:17. Together with Peter they appear to have enjoyed special honors and privileges among the disciples, Mark 1:29 5:37 9:2 13:3 14:33 Luke 8:51. After the ascension of our Lord, at which James was present, he appears to have remained at Jerusalem, and was put to death by Herod, about A. D. 44, the first martyr among the apostles, Acts 12:1,2.
Another apostle, son of Alphaeus, or Cleophas, Matthew 10:3 Mark 3:18 Luke 6:15. His mother’s name was Mary, (3) and his brethren were Joses and Judas, (3) Matthew 27:56; Mark 15:40. He is here called THE LESS, or the younger, to distinguish him from James the son of Zebedee.
"The Lord’s brother," Galatians 1:19; either a brother a Christ, being a son of Joseph and Mary; or as many think, a cousin of Christ, and identical with the James above, 2. He resided at Jerusalem, Acts 15:13; and is called "the Just" by Josephus, and said to have been stoned to death, about A. D. 62. The epistle of James is ascribed to him by those who distinguish him from James the Less. The question of his true relationship to Christ is involved in much doubt. The gospels repeatedly mention James, Joses, Juda, and Simon, as "brothers" of our Lord, and speak in the same connection of his "mother" and his "sisters," Matthew 12:46 13:56 Mark 3:31 6:3 Luke 8:19; moreover, the inspired writers expressly distinguish the brothers of Christ from the apostles both James the Less and Jude, John 2:12 7:3-10 Acts 1:13,14, thus furnishing strong reasons, as many believe, for the opinion that James the Just was literally a brother of our Lord.
These dictionary topics are from American Tract Society Bible Dictionary published in 1859. Public Domain, copy freely.
Rand, W. W. "Entry for 'JAMES'". "American Tract Society Bible Dictionary".