[Gal 2:12-13 NLT] (12) When he first arrived, he ate with the Gentile Christians, who were not circumcised. But afterward, when some friends of James came, Peter wouldn't eat with the Gentiles anymore. He was afraid of criticism from these people who insisted on the necessity of circumcision. (13) As a result, other Jewish Christians followed Peter's hypocrisy, and even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy.

[Act 15:13-21 NLT] (13) When they had finished, James stood and said, "Brothers, listen to me. (14) Peter has told you about the time God first visited the Gentiles to take from them a people for himself. (15) And this conversion of Gentiles is exactly what the prophets predicted. As it is written: (16) 'Afterward I will return and restore the fallen house of David. I will rebuild its ruins and restore it, (17) so that the rest of humanity might seek the LORD, including the Gentiles--all those I have called to be mine. The LORD has spoken-- (18) he who made these things known so long ago.' (19) "And so my judgment is that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. (20) Instead, we should write and tell them to abstain from eating food offered to idols, from sexual immorality, from eating the meat of strangled animals, and from consuming blood. (21) For these laws of Moses have been preached in Jewish synagogues in every city on every Sabbath for many generations."

Same person?

1 Answer 1


There are several people called "James" in the NT -

  1. James the son of Zebedee and brother of John and disciple of Jesus; Matt 4:21, Luke 5:10. This James was part of Jesus' inner circle consisting of Peter James and John. James was probably older than John because he is usually listed first. Matt 3:17, 9:2, 13;3, 14:33.
  2. James the son of Alphaeus, also one of the 12, Matt 10:3, Mark 3:18, Luke 6:15, Acts 1:13. It is possible that he was a brother to Matthew (Matt 9:9). He is also listed in Matt 10:3, Luke 6:15, Acts 1:13.
  3. Jesus' brother, probably an older brother by Joseph's previous marriage (?). Matt 12:46, 13:55, Mark 6:3, Gal 1:19, John 7:5, Acts 1:14, 12:17, etc.
  4. A Church leader in Jerusalem, Acts 12:17, 15:13, 21:18, 1 Cor 15:7, Gal 2:9, 12. He is mentioned AFTER the death of James the brother of John (#1) and thus distinct, Acts 15:13, 21:17-20, He is described as one of the "pillars of the church", Gal 2:9, 12. The early Christian tradition is that this James is the same person as #3 above.
  5. Author of the Epistle of James, "servant of God and of the Lord Jesus", James 1:1. Most believe that this James is the same as the Lord's brother but this cannot be proven.
  6. The son of one of the Mary's, Matt 27:56, Mark 15:40, Luke 24:10, who was present at Jesus crucifixion. It is possible that this James might have been one of the above as well but we do not now know.
  7. The father of Judas (not Iscariot), and one of the 12. Luke 6:16.

My view is that because Paul Mentions James the brother of the Lord in Gal 1:19 and then James (without further identification) in Gal 2:9, 12, that the latter is almost certainly the same as the former. Thus, there is circumstantial evidence that "one of the pillars of the church" (Gal 2:9) was indeed "the brother of the Lord" (Gal 1:19).

If this is true, then the answer to the OP's question, Is the James of Gal 2:9, 12 the same as James of Acts 15:13? The answer is very probably "Yes". However, this cannot be proven despite the fact that this was the early church tradition; further, it is likely (according to the same tradition) that the author of the book of James as also the brother of the Lord, and leader of the early church.

I note that in commenting on Acts 15:13, Many believe that the james there is the brother of Jesus, see Ellicott, Meyer, Cambridge, etc. Some differ (eg, Poole, Gill, Barnes) and suggest that this was James the son of Alphaeus a cousin of Jesus; however, I personally find their reasons unconvincing.

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