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ALPHAEUS (ăl-fē'ŭs, Gr. Alphaios)

ALPHAEUS ăl fē’ us (̓Αλφαι̂ος). 1. The father of Levi (Mark 2:14), who is identified with the apostle Matthew (Matt 9:9; 10:3). Nothing more is known about him.

2. The father of another of the apostles, generally called James the Less to distinguish him from the better known James who was the brother of John (Matt 10:3; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:15; Acts 1:13). He is clearly differentiated from James the son of Zebedee (Matt 10:3; Mark 3:18).

Some scholars identify the father of Levi with the father of James the Less, and hold that Levi and James were brothers. Chrysostom thought that they were not only brothers, but also tax collectors before they became disciples of Jesus. Some MSS (D Θ Φ f13) have “James” instead of “Levi” in Mark 2:14, but this likely is a scribal attempt to harmonize this passage with those in which James the son of Alphaeus is mentioned (Matt 10:3; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:15; Acts 1:13). The preponderance of MS evidence is for the “Levi” reading.

While it is possible that Alphaeus and Clopas are the same person, it is impossible to determine it absolutely.


J. B. Lightfoot, The Epistle to the Galatians (1892), 252-391; J. B. Mayor, The Epistle of St. James (1892), xvi f.; S. J. Andrews, The Life of Our Lord Upon Earth (1906), 114, 115; F. Prat, Jesus Christ, His Life, His Teaching, and His Work, Vol. I (1950), 134-139; 507-510.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

(Alphaios; Westcott and Hort, The New Testament in Greek, Halphaios):

(1) The father of the second James in the list of the apostles (Mt 10:3; Mr 3:18; Lu 6:15; Ac 1:13).

(2) The father of Levi, the publican (Mr 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 Mr 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 Joh 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 Mr 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 Joh 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 disprove it.

(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 theory. See Clopas.

It seems impossible to determine absolutely whether or not Alpheus, the father of the second James, and Clopas of Joh 19:25 are the same person, but it is quite probable that they are.