Alphaeus in the Bible Encyclopedia - ISBE
al-fe'-us (Alphaios; Westcott and Hort, The New Testament in
(1) The father of the second James in the list of the
apostles (Mt 10:3; Mk 3:18; Lk 6:15; Acts 1:13).
(2) The father of Levi, the publican (Mk 2:14). Levi is
designated as Matthew in the Gospel of Mt (9:9). There is no
other reference to this Alpheus.
Some writers, notably Weiss, identify the father of Levi
with the father of the second James. He says that James and
Levi were undoubtedly brothers; but that seems improbable.
If they were brothers they would quite likely be associated
as are James and John, Andrew and Peter. Chrysostom says
James and Levi had both been tax-gatherers before they
became followers of Jesus. This tradition would not lend
much weight as proof that they were brothers, for it might
arise through identifying the two names, and the western
manuscripts do identify them and read James instead of Levi
in Mk 2:14. This, however, is undoubtedly a corruption of
the text. If it had been the original it would be difficult
to explain the substitution of an unknown Levi for James who
is well known.
Many writers identify Alpheus, the father of the second
James, with Clopas of Jn 19:25. This had early become a
tradition, and Chrysostom believed they were the same
person. This identity rests on four suppositions, all of
which are doubtful:
(a) That the Mary of Clopas was the same as the Mary who was
the mother of the second James. There is a difference of
opinion as to whether "Mary of Clopas" should be understood
to be the wife of Clopas or the daughter of Clopas, but the
former is more probable. We know from Mt 27:56 and Mk 15:40
that there was a James who was the son of Mary, and that
this Mary belonged to that little group of women that was
near Jesus it the time of the crucifixion. It is quite
likely that this Mary is the one referred to in Jn 19:25.
That would make James, the son of Mary of Mt 27:56, the son
of Mary of Clopas. But Mary was such a common name In the
New Testament that this supposition cannot be proven.
(b) That the James, who was the son of Mary, was the same
person as the James, the son of Alpheus. Granting the
supposition under (a), this would not prove the identity of
Clopas and Alpheus unless this supposition can also be
proven, but it seems impossible to either prove it or
(c) That Alpheus and Clopas are different variations of a
common original, and that the variation has arisen from
different pronunciations of the first letter ("ch") of the
Aramaic original. There are good scholars who both support
and deny this theory.
(d) That Clopas had two names as was common at that time;
but there is nothing to either substantiate or disprove this
It seems impossible to determine absolutely whether or not
Alpheus, the father of the second James, and Clopas of Jn
19:25 are the same person, but it is quite probable that