James the brother of John (Iakōbon ton adelphon Iōanou). He had been called by Jesus a son of thunder along with his brother John. Jesus had predicted a bloody death for both of them (Mar 10:38.; Mat 20:23). James is the first of the apostles to die and John probably the last. He is not James the Lord’s brother (Gal 1:19). We do not know why Luke tells so little about the death of James and so much about the death of Stephen nor do we know why Herod selected him as a victim. Eusebius (H.E. ii. 9) quotes Clement of Alexandria as saying that a Jew made accusations against James and was converted and beheaded at the same time with him.
Killed with the sword (aneilen machairēi). The verb is a favourite one with Luke (Act 2:33; Act 5:33, Act 5:36; Act 7:28; Act 9:23-29; Act 10:39, etc.). Instrumental case and Ionic form of machaira. The Jews considered beheading a shameful death as in the case of the Baptist (Mat 14:10).