How can we as Bible students tell the difference between characters in the Bible with the same first name? For example, James the brother of Jesus and James the brother of John the Apostle. I usually rely on a commentary or chain references when the answer is not apparent. Also, I have heard before that James the brother of Jesus was executed. I understand that the execution of James in the book of Acts is referring to James the Apostle. Was James the brother of Jesus executed, and if so where do I find this in the Bible or other text? -- Lisa Burtan
Your method, using a commentary or following chain references, will nearly always clear up any confusion about who's who. "James" is an interesting case, since there are many Jameses in the Bible! (See if you can find all the others!)
And, yes, James bar Zebedee is indicated in Acts 12. Execution by the Roman sword means beheading. The martyrdom of James the Just, that is, James the brother of Jesus, is mentioned by the 1st century Jewish historian Josephus.
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