In Acts, Luke refers only briefly to how James, one of Zebedee’s ‘sons of thunder’ and brother of St John the Evangelist, met his end. History and tradition, however, can tell us a little more of the story.
HEROD Agrippa, grandson of Herod the Great, was a powerful Jewish king in Judaea and Galilee. He had inherited his lands from his disgraced uncle, Herod Antipas, and enjoyed the favour of the Roman Emperor Caligula and - to a lesser extent - Caligula’s successor Claudius.
Agrippa had grown up in the Imperial household and learned its extravagant (and corrupt) ways, but he also had a strong sense of his Jewish heritage.
Christians displeased him on both counts, showing proper respect neither to Imperial Rome nor to the Temple authorities and their laws, and he ordered the movement’s leaders to be rounded up.
Just before Passover in AD 44, James was brought before him, and trumped up charges were read out. But one of the ‘witnesses’, named Josias, was so moved by the saint’s bearing that he recanted his false testimony, declared himself a Christian, and begged James’s forgiveness.
James thought for a moment, and then embraced him. “Peace be with you!” he said; and they were beheaded together.