Q. We celebrate the feast of St. James the Apostle this week (July 25). Were he and his brother, the Apostle John, kinsmen of Jesus?
A. We don’t know for sure. Some authors, comparing John 19:25 with Matthew 27:56 and Mark 15:40 (parallel passages naming the women standing at the foot of the Cross), conclude that Mary the mother of James the Less and of Joseph (mentioned in Mark and Matthew) is to be identified with “Mary [the wife] of Clopas” (noted in John). Since Mary Magdalen occurs in all three lists, they also conclude that Salome (mentioned in Mark) is the same person as “the mother of the sons of Zebedee” noted in Matthew.
Finally, they identify Salome with “his mother’s sister” in John. To make this final identification, they claim that four women are designated by John 19:25: (1) Jesus’s mother; (2) his mother’s sister; (3) Mary the wife of Clopas; and (4) Mary Magdalene. (The ancient Syriac version called the Peshito reads this way.) According to this interpretation, Salome was a sister of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and James the Greater and John were first cousins of the Lord.
If this is indeed the truth, it might provide one reason why the two brothers were chosen as apostles; why they and their mother, Salome, might have thought it appropriate for them to seek the highest positions in Our Lord’s kingdom; and why Jesus would give His mother into the care of her own nephew.