In Galatians 1:19:

New International Version:
I saw none of the other apostles--only James, the Lord's brother.

English Standard Version:
But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord’s brother.

New American Standard Bible:
But I did not see any other of the apostles except James, the Lord's brother.

King James Bible:
But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord's brother.

Are we supposed to read this as I saw no apostle other than James (an apostle) or I saw no apostles, but I did see James the brother of the Lord? If the former, is there Scriptural support to say that James was one of the twelve? I had believed it was widely assumed that none of Jesus' family believed in Him during his earthly ministry. (That is, James came to faith after seeing the resurrected Jesus)

  • 1
    It is generally acknowledged by scholars that Paul's definition of apostle is "one who has seen the risen Jesus"; when he refers to the 12 he always calls them simply "the 12".
    – ThaddeusB
    Commented Oct 14, 2015 at 20:40
  • @ThaddeusB, that's great insight. Any particular literature on this that you could point to? Commented Oct 14, 2015 at 21:00
  • I don't know of a paper specifically on Paul's definition of apostle - it is usually just taken for granted that he means (at minimum) "had an encounter with the risen Jesus", as he calls a number of people apostles and defends his own apostleship on that basis. See, for example, C.S. Lewis.
    – ThaddeusB
    Commented Oct 15, 2015 at 0:27
  • @ThaddeusB The Lewis link is broken. Also, I think these comments belong in an answer rather than comments. What would you think about deleting them?
    – Ruminator
    Commented May 10, 2018 at 15:10
  • For the latter part of your question, there's a deep dive into whether this James was one of the twelve with scriptural and historical references here.
    – emeth
    Commented Jun 24, 2019 at 14:50

2 Answers 2


Paul is referring to James, the brother of Jesus as an apostle. A word for word translation appears here:

ἕτερον δὲ τῶν ἀποστόλων οὐκ εἶδον εἰ μὴ Ἰάκωβον τὸν ἀδελφὸν τοῦ Κυρίου

Other. moreover (but/also). of the. apostles. none. I saw. if. not. James. the. brother. of the. Lord.

Biblehub (Sanday: Ellicott's Commentary) states: "From the form of this phrase it would appear that James, the Lord’s brother, was considered to be an Apostle." It suggests that if the word 'brother' meant that he was a cousin of our Lord, then he could have been James the son of Alphaeus, one of the original Twelve. If so, it would seem that none of the gospel authors realised that James son of Alphaeus was related to Jesus, given the perfunctory way he is introduced (example: Mark 3:18) and never subsequently mentioned. Alternatively, Sanday says that if James was either the son of Joseph alone or of Joseph and Mary, then Paul must have used the title in the wider sense in which it is applied to Paul and Barnabas. If these are the only two alternatives, then I see this as more likely than that James was the son of Alphaeus. In support of this, the gospels tell us that Jesus had a brother called James and that he was not one of the twelve:

Mark 6:3: Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him.

Returning to Paul, he referred, in 1 Corinthians 15:5-7, to the ‘twelve’, James and then the ‘apostles’:

1 Corinthians 15:5-7: And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles.

This can only be the same James, 'brother of the Lord'. A straight-forward reading of the passage suggests that Paul saw the twelve and the apostles as a different groups - to him, being one of the twelve was not the same as being an apostle, and vice versa. The juxtaposition in the same sentence of James and all the apostles could once again suggest that, to Paul, James was an apostle.

In summary, Paul almost certainly did regard James as an apostle. Biblehub offers two alternative explanations, one of which speculatively provides Scriptural support for James as the son of Alphaeus and therefore one of the twelve. Paul, himself, does not refer to James as one of the twelve, but seems to regard the twelve as a group distinct from the apostles.

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    I actually don’t have any major objections to this (!). Two very minor ones which you may be willing to adjust: (1) Maybe cite the commentator (William Sanday) for the quote etc. in ¶2 rather than Biblehub? (2) That interlinear, in addition to being an interlinear, provides a couple questionable glosses (δὲ doesn’t generally mean “moreover”, and here it’s contrasting “I visited Cephas” and “I didn’t see...” - i.e. “yet” or something....and οὐκ negates the verb - not rather than none). An alternative.
    – Susan
    Commented Oct 14, 2015 at 16:52
  • @Susan Thank you for your assistance on this. (1)At your suggestion, I followed the links to find that the original author of the Biblehub quote was Sanders & gave him credit (Keeping Biblehub.and 'Ellicott's Commentary' so that readers can find the reference correctly). (2) I could not visit your link (403 forbidden) but I looked up a paper on acadamia.com to find alternative meanings, which I posted as alternatives (but if I cite Biblehub's interlinear, I thought I should also keep their translation) - you probably prefer 'but' to 'also' (or 'moreover') do you? Commented Oct 14, 2015 at 20:54
  • FWIW - Burton's ICC commentary on Galatians (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1921) is well worth consulting. His discussion of this passage is on pp. 60-61.
    – Dɑvïd
    Commented Oct 14, 2015 at 20:58

The name we know in English as "James" is, in the scriptures, actually a corruption of the name "Jacob". Jacob was a patriarch and thus it is understandable that he is the namesake of many Jews so it is not altogether strange that there should be so many of that name in the NT. It is noteworthy, though that among Jesus' kinsmen there are a Simon, James and Judas/Jude, as there are the same three names among the twelve.

Commentator Adam Clarke does a valiant job of attempting to sort out the many Jacobs of the NT:

Save James the Lord’s brother - That the James here referred to was an apostle is clear. The whole construction of the sentence demands this supposition. In the list of the apostles in Mat_10:2-3, two of this name are mentioned, James the son of Zebedee and brother of John, and James the son of Alpheus. From the Acts of the Apostles, it is clear that there were two of this name in Jerusalem. Of these, James the brother of John was slain by Herod Act_12:2, and the other continued to reside in Jerusalem, Act_15:13; Act_21:13. This latter James was called James the Less Mar_15:40, to distinguish him from the other James, probably because he was the younger. It is probable that this was the James referred to here, as it is evident from the Acts of the Apostles that he was a prominent man among the apostles in Jerusalem.

Commentators have not been agreed as to what is meant by his being the brother of the Lord Jesus. Doddridge understands it as meaning that he was “the near kinsman” or cousin-german to Jesus, for he was, says he, the son of Alpheus and Mary, the sister of the virgin; and if there were only two of this name, this opinion is undoubtedly correct.

In the Apostolical Constitutions (see Rosenmuller) three of this name are mentioned as apostles or eminent men in Jerusalem; and hence, many have supposed that one of them was the son of Mary the mother of the Lord Jesus. It is said Mat_13:55 that the brothers of Jesus were James and Joses, and Simon, and Judas; and it is remarkable that three of the apostles bear the same names; James the son of Alpheus, Simon Zelotes, and Judas, Joh_14:22. It is indeed possible, as Bloomfield remarks, that three brothers of our Lord and three of his apostles might bear the same names, and yet be different persons; but such a coincidence would be very remarkable, and not easily explained. But if it were not so, then the James here was the son of Alpheus, and consequently a cousin of the Lord Jesus.

The word “brother” may, according to Scriptural usage, be understood as denoting a near kinsman. See Schleusher (Lexicon 2) on the word ἀδελφός adelphos.

After all, however, it is not quite certain who is intended. Some have supposed that neither of the apostles of the name of James is intended, but another James who was the son of Mary the mother of Jesus. See Koppe in loc. But it is clear, I think, that one of the apostles is intended. Why James is particularly mentioned here is unknown. Since, however, he was a prominent man in Jerusalem, Paul would naturally seek his acquaintance. It is possible that the other apostles were absent from Jerusalem during the fifteen days when he was there.

The translators into English almost without exception have "except James" with the NIV being the sole or at least one of few that don't have James being an apostle:


I believe that the Koine allows for the NIV reading though it is not the more common usage of ει μη, at least in English translations of the NT.

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