Why were John & James called the "Sons of Thunder"?


*Hello, Why were John & James called the "Sons of Thunder"? As far as nicknames go, I know that Jesus called Simon - Cephas/Peter for a reason; being the first pope & establishing His church. But I've also heard the apostles John & James called the "Sons of Thunder". Does anyone know why? *


Some explanations are it refers to their zeal, apostolic mission and the persecution they faced in the world. St. James the Greater is believed to be the first Apostle martyred for Christ by Herod Agrippa I, while St. John the Evangelist was the last one to die at Ephesus close to the year 100. Another interpretation is that the name relates to their presence at the Transfiguration where a voice from a bright cloud spoke like thunder: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased: hear him.” (Cf. Matt. 17:5)

Commentary compiled by Fr. Haydock:

And he called James, &c. The words, he called, are no addition, as they only express the literal sense: they are included in what is said, v. 13, that he called to him whom he would. — Boanerges, the sons of thunder, or thunderers, is only to express their great zeal. Wi. — He gave also the two sons of Zebedee the name of Boanerges, ( Βοανεργες ) from the Syriac, Benairegesch; or the Hebrew, Beni, sons, regesch, thunder, noise or tumult. In conformity to their name, we find these two apostles asking Jesus, (Luke ix. 54.) wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, to consume them? They spread the fame of the gospel through the whole world. So great was the zeal of S. James, that he incurred the resentment of king Agrippa, and was the first of the apostles to seal the doctrines of Jesus Christ with his blood. S. John also fulfilled the import of his name, as appears from his gospel, epistles, apocalypse, and the sufferings he underwent at Rome for the faith. SS. Peter, James, and John, were the only apostles to whom our Saviour gave particular names, a mark, perhaps, of his special affection for them. T.

Catena Aurea compiled by St. Thomas Aquinas (1225 - 7 March 1274):

Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: He calls the sons of Zebedee by this name, because they were to spread over the world the mighty and illustrious decrees of the Godhead.

Pseudo-Jerome; Or by this the lofty merit of the three mentioned above is shewn, who merited to hear in the mountain the thunders of the Father, when he proclaimed in thunder through a could concerning the Son, “This is My beloved Son;” that they also through the cloud of the flesh and fire of the word, might as it were scatter the thunderbolts in rain on the earth, since the Lord turned the thunderbolts into rain, so that mercy extinguishes what judgment sets on fire.


Possibly because hey were the ones who wanted to call down fire on the town that rejected Jesus.



Apparently, there's no one explanation; there are several interesting commentaries on Mark 3:17 here:



**No, I guess there isn't just one explanation. But many good ideas about the meaning behind the name. I do believe that like Cephas/Peter, Jesus calling James & John "Sons of Thunder" would be a positive, or a blessing of affection, etc. I can understand that it could be from either the Transfiguration or the request to call down fire from Heaven. Perhaps both?

It also makes me think of St. Thomas the Apostle being called "doubting Thomas". Is this more of an insult from the church? It's not always that I hear St. Thomas referred to as doubting Thomas with great affection. Although why not? He was the Apostle the made it absolutely clear that Jesus Christ was/is God.

Thanks for the posts/answers on James & John everyone :-) I appreciate it.**


I thought it was because of the way they preached

think i heard that somewhere way back


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.