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James (Hebrew: יעקב Ya'akovGreek Ἰάκωβος Iákōbos), first Bishop of Bishops,[2] who died in 62 or 69, was an important figure of theApostolic Age. He is distinguished from the Apostle James, son of Zebedee by various epithets; he is called James the brother of the Lordby Paul (Galatians 1:19), James the brother of the Lord, surnamed the Just by Hegesippus and others, "James the Righteous", "James of Jerusalem", "James Adelphotheos" (Ἰάκωβος ὁ ἀδελφόθεος), and so on.

In a letter addressed to James from Clement of Rome, James was called as the "bishop of bishops, who rules Jerusalem, the Holy Assembly of Hebrews, and all assemblies everywhere."[3] But like the rest of the early Christians, information about his life is scarce and ambiguous. In the Gospel of Thomas, Jesus names James his successor: "The disciples said to Jesus, 'We know that you will depart from us. Who will be our leader?' Jesus said to them, ;Where you are, you are to go to James the Just, for whose sake heaven and earth came into existence.'"[4] Apart from a handful of references in the synoptic Gospels, the main sources for his life are the Acts of the Apostles, the Pauline epistles, the historian JosephusEusebius and St. Jerome who also quote the early Christian chronicler Hegesippus and Epiphanus.[5] The Epistle of James in the New Testament is traditionally attributed to him, and he is a principal author of the Apostolic Decree of Acts 15. In the extant lists of Hippolytus of Rome,[6] Dorotheus of Tyre, the Chronicon Paschale, and Dimitry of Rostov, he is the first of the Seventy Apostles, though some sources, such as the Catholic Encyclopedia,[7] seeking to preserve the primacy for Saint Peter as the first Pope, draw the conclusion that "these lists are unfortunately worthless".

Hegesippus in his fifth book of his Commentaries, writing of James, says "After the apostles, James the brother of the Lord surnamed the Just was made head of the Church at Jerusalem."[8]

As a consequence of the orthodox doctrine of perpetual virginity, which does not allow that Mary had children after Jesus, Jerome considered that the term "brother" of the Lord should be read "cousin", and concluded that James "the brother of the Lord," (Gal.1:19) is therefore James, son of Alphaeus, one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus, as well as James, the son of Mary Cleophas.[9] It is interesting that near contemporary sources also insist that James too was a "perpetual virgin" from the womb, a term which according to Robert Eisenman was later converted to his mother, Mary.[10] According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, he is not, however, identified with James the Great,[9] although this is disputed.[10] Some Protestant groups claim the Matthew 1:25 statement that Joseph "knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son" to mean that Joseph and Mary did have normal marital relations after Jesus' birth, and that James, JosesJude, and Simon were the biological sons of Mary and Joseph; and, thus, brothers of Jesus.