St James the Greater



Who was St James? What did he do for a living? James’ father was a fisherman by trade and he and his brother John were part of a family fishing business in Jesus’ time.

Why is he remembered? One day Jesus walked along the shores of Lake Galilee and finding James and John (brothers), he asked both to follow him. Without any discussion, James and John left their father, their boat ,and the fishing business, and followed Jesus. So he followed Jesus.

What else do we know about him? James was chosen by Jesus to be one of the twelve apostles, given the mission at Jesus’ ascension to proclaim the good news of Jesus to the people he would meet in the future.

Was he a “super hero” from the start? No. He was never a super hero as we understand that term today.

What was James’ mother like? While he was still learning with Jesus, his mother Salome asked Jesus to assign her sons James & John to places on his right and his left when Jesus “came into his kingdom” (Matthew 20, 20-28; Mark 10, 35-45).

What relationship did James have with Jesus? Peter and Andrew, James and John formed the first small group which we call “Jesus disciples”. That small group seemed to remain a special group (cf. Mark 13: 3); especially Peter, James, and John. These three disciples alone were admitted to be present at the miracle of the raising of Jairus’s daughter (Mark5: 37; Luke 8: 51), at the Transfiguration (Mark 9: 1; Matt. 17:1; Luke9: 28), and the Agony in Gethsemane (Matt 26: 37; Mark14: 33).

Did James have a nickname? Jesus gave James and his brother John the nickname “Sons of Thunder” (Mark3: 17). Maybe they had loud voices, short tempers, a fiery reaction to people not listening to them. The two brothers also showed their fiery temperament in  Luke 9, 51-56. They wished to call down fire from heaven to destroy a village which had refused them hospitality.

How come James is referred to as James the Greater? James is called James the Greater because there was another younger apostle named James. He should not be confused with this James, or the James who is a relative of Jesus. Nor should was he the James who was an Elder of the Church in Jerusalem and heard Peter’s defense of baptizing Gentiles. James, “Son of Thunder”, was dead by then.

How did he die? James was martyred in A.D. 44. Herod Agrippa I , grandson of Herod the Great, persecuted the Christian Church because their rapid growth incensed the Jews. On the Passover of A.D. 44, Herod Agrippa choose James as the first victim. “He killed James, the brother of John, with the sword.” (Acts12:1-2). Some say  that James evangelized all of Spain. The extent of his mission work in Spain is disputed

The Saint James Coat of Arms

The small shells on the staffs were used for scooping water from streams or pools to have a drink “along the way”. As a great missionary, he apparently traveled considerably. Hence the inclusion of these two shells tied to the staffs.

The larger shell is typical of shells used sometimes to scoop water when people are baptized. Together with the other two smaller shells, the purpose of his missionary activity is clear, to bring people to faith in Christ through baptism.

The three shells in total remind us of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, into whom people were baptized.

The sword merged with the cross also reminds us that St James died when he was “killed by the sword” on the orders of King Herod Agrippa, because he told people about Jesus who died on the cross, so people could become children of God.

The sword also has connections to the legends about St James when he miraculously appeared to fight for the Christian army against the Moors during the battle of Clavijo.

A simplified shield for St James the Greater sometimes has just three equal sized shells on it.

In the earlier days of St James congregation, the simplified shield appeared in one of our church bulletins. From this early reference, and other verbal affirmations of the same, it is logical to conclude that our congregation is named after St James the Greater.

Why did founding members of the Lutheran Christian Congregation, Whyalla, choose “St James” as its Christian name? Find some of those answers, read the article called, “Why St James in Whyalla”