is mentioned in the New Testament
as the father of three of the Twelve Apostles
As the father of an Apostle James, he has been confused with Clopas, who through his wife Mary was stepfather to James the Less . He and Clopas were both Zaddikite priests related to Zechariah the father of John the Baptist according to the Church fathers. This identification, and the problem arising from it, is explained by the Catholic Encyclopedia:
- "This name, Clopas, is thought by many to be the Greek transliteration of an Aramaic Alphaeus. This view is based on the identification of Mary, the mother of James etc. (Mark, xv, 40) with Mary, the wife of Clopas, and the consequent identity of Alphaeus, father of James (Mark, iii, 18), with Clopas. Etymologically, however, the identification of the two names offers serious difficulties: (1) Although the letter Heth is occasionally rendered in Greek by Kappa at the end and in the middle of words, it is very seldom so in the beginning, where the aspirate is better protected; examples of this, however, are given by Levy (Sem. Fremdwörter in Griech.); but (2) even if this difficulty was met, Clopas would suppose an Aramaic Halophai, not Halpai. (3) The Syriac versions have rendered the Greek Clopas with a Qoph, not with a Heth, as they would have done naturally had they been conscious of the identity of Clopas and Halpai; Alphaeus is rendered with Heth (occasionally Aleph). For these reasons, others see in Clopas a substitute for Cleopas, with the contraction of eo into w. In Greek, it is true, eo is not contracted into w, but a Semite, borrowing a name did not necessarily follow the rules of Greek contraction. In fact, in Mishnic Hebrew the name Cleopatra is rendered by Clopatra, and hence the Greek Cleopas might be rendered by Clopas. See also, Chabot, "Journ. Asiat.", X, 327 (1897). Even if, etymologically, the two names are different they may have been borne by one name, and the question of the identity of Alphaeus and Clopas is still open."
There may have been two separate men named Alphaeus. Though both Matthew and James are described as being the "son of Alphaeus" there is no Biblical account of the two being called brothers, even in the same context where John and James or Peter and Andrew are described as being brothers.
There is also an Alphaeus named as the father of Levi in Mark 2.14
"And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him."