I am currently reading the book of Mark and find myself stuck with chapter 2 verse 14. (KJV) “And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the receipt of custom, and said unto him, Follow me. And he arose and followed him.” I read the ESV (English Standard Version) alongside with the NIV Study Bible and KJV. Is Levi really the apostle James? I ask because the NIV Study Bible has Matthew in parenthesis. The passage seems to be a scene of a bunch of tax collectors which would match Matthew however, in Matthew's book chapter 10 verse 3 it reads: (KJV) “Philip, and Bartholomew; Thomas, and Matthew the publican; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus;” Is it not possible that James could have been a tax collector also? Or could he have been there paying his taxes. It’s confusing because one book says one thing and another book say something else. The ESV does not say who Levi is except that he is the son of Alphaeus which would be James.
You are very observant. I had never noticed this before.
It is generally conceded that the Levi in Mark 2:14 is Matthew. This is because the parallel account in Matthew’s gospel names himself as the tax collector in this incident. (Matthew 9:9) So what does this mean in relation to your question?
There are two possibilities, both equally likely. One (probably the commonly accepted one) is that Matthew’s father and the other James’ father were two different people who shared a common name. Your question made me think, though, that there is a possibility that Matthew and James “the Less” are brothers. Consider that there were other brothers among the twelve. Peter and Andrew were brothers. James and John were brothers, and possibly cousins of Jesus. Philip and Nathanael were either brothers or close friends or relatives. So it would not be a stretch to believe that Matthew and this James were also brothers. Either of these possibilities is valid, but since you point out the shared name of their fathers I would tend to lean toward the theory that they are brothers.