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James was a disciple of Jesus Christ and the son of Zebedee.
James and his brother John were among the first disciples of Jesus (Mark 1:19–20). He and John must have been a rowdy bunch, because Jesus nicknamed them the “Sons of Thunder” (Mark 3:17). Even so, James must have held a special place in Jesus’ heart, because he, along with Peter and John, were sometimes called apart separately from the other disciples to be with Jesus.
As a part of this inner circle of followers, James was privy to the raising of Jairus’s daughter (Mark 5:35–43), the transfiguration of Jesus (Mark 9:1–9), and Jesus’ agony in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:32–42).
At the same time, James still exhibited faults just like anyone else. He and John displayed what seems like selfishness by asking Jesus if they could serve as the two highest officials in His kingdom (Mark 10:35–41).
They also portrayed a vengeful spirit when they asked Jesus if they should call down fire upon a Samaritan village that refused to welcome Jesus (Luke 9:52–56).
James was the first apostle to suffer martyrdom. (Stephen was the first Christian martyr, but he was a deacon). James was put to death by Herod Agrippa I (Acts 12:1–2), a grandson of Herod the Great.