This is all still from the introduction to the first ancient work the Protoevangelion of James/Gospel of Mary, depending on how you want to call it.
I the early church this work went by several different titles but the most common mark was some reference to 'James' because that is who claims to have written the work in the closing line: 'I, James, wrote this history.'
The first question we might ask is who's James? There are three famous Jameses in the New Testament. The first was an Apostle and one of the three Apostles closest to Jesus - Peter, James and John. This James is called James the Greater. A second apostle named James was the son of Alphaeus and is called James the Less. Sort of like having two guys named Joe in one group. You call one Big Joe and one Little Joe. Or at my office we have two Holly's in the same department. The Holly who was there first is H1 and the other is H2.
The third James is identified in Scripture as James, the Lord's brother. Also called James the Just. This is the James who is believed to be the author of this Gospel. He appears in the New Testament several times. He received a private appearance of the Resurrected Lord as relayed to us by St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 15. He presided over the first church council in Acts 15 in his capacity as the first bishop of Jerusalem - and perhaps the first bishop anywhere. In addition to having authored the Epistle of James he also wrote the oldest surviving Eucharistic liturgy (the Liturgy of St. James). Edited and condensed in the fourth century this liturgy is still the standard Sunday worship of the Eastern Orthodox Church under the name of the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom.
"The church historian Hegesippus, writing about AD 165, says that James was respected by all and that even non-Christians called him 'James the Just.' He prayed so much that 'his knees became like those of a camel.'"
James' death, according to history was in AD 62 at the hands of a maddened crowd led by the Pharisees.
He was also the subject of the discovery in Israel of an ossuary bearing the inscription 'James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus.' Which was proved to be an authentic ossuary from the era of Christ but with a forged inscription.
-Did our Lord have a brother?
The author calls this a 'sticky theological question'. "Since the Scriptures present us with the virginal conception of Christ, classic Christianity has never entertained the idea that the Greek term adelphos meant that James was Jesus' full brother. There have been three ways of understanding the term. James was either Jesus' step-brother, or his half-brother, or his cousin."
The oldest belief is that James is Jesus' step-brother. Joseph was, at the time of his betrothal to the Virgin Mary, a widower with children from his deceased wife. This would make James older than Jesus, but possibly still a child when Mary came to live in Joseph's home. Mary would have taken over the raising of the children and they would have all grown up with Jesus. For all practical purposes they would have been brothers and sisters to anyone who knew the family. The Protoevangelion is written with the assumption that James was present for many of the events described, and old enough to recall them at a later date. This is the historical view of the Church and is the position taken by the Protoevangelion and is still the teaching of the Orthodox Church.
Protestants, on the other hand, tend to believe that after the birth of Jesus Mary and Joseph entered into normal marital relations and that James is a subsequent son, making him Jesus' younger half-brother. There is, in this case, the problem of Mary's perpetual virginity, but Frederica says that we'll consider that later on. Even if Mary and Joseph did have subsequent children together there is still the possibility of older children from a previous marriage, James included.
Roman Catholics tend to take the view that James was not the son of Joseph, but rather a cousin of one remove or another. I say tend because I was not taught that there was one 'correct' way of belief here. It was, according to the deacon who taught my RCIA class, equally possible that James was a brother from Joseph's previous marriage or a cousin and that the answer made no practicable difference. The important factor was that he most definitely was not the son of Mary and Joseph, since Mary was ever-virgin. Those who take the tack that James was a cousin follow a proposal made by St. Jerome sometime in the fourth century suggesting that Joseph maintained perpetual virginity as well. I...feel extreme doubt about that one. Maybe just because I'd never heard it before now.