James Intercisus, Saint (Jacob the Sawn, al- Muqatta‘)

JAMES INTERCISUS, SAINT, or Jacob the Sawn or al- Muqatta‘

A Persian martyr of the third century (feast day: 27 Hatur). He is fully documented in Syriac, Greek, Arabic, and other sources. The basic text concerning him is a Passion extant in several redactions. The redaction closest to the original, according to P. Devos, is the Syriac (Bedjan, 1968). One of the four Greek redactions apparently derives from this one (the other three seem to be reworkings), and the other Oriental versions would appear to derive, directly or indirectly, from the Greek. In Coptic, we possess fragments of the Passion in Sahidic ( Museum, Or. 7561.120-21, ed. Winstedt, 1911; Vatican Library, 109, 145a; National Library, Paris, Copte 129.16.78 and 78 bis). In Bohairic we possess the complete text (Vatican Library, Coptic 59f. 1-29, ed. Balestri and Hyvernat, 1908) and fragments of another codex (cf. Evelyn- White, 1926, p. 14).

These texts seem to be in substantial agreement. However, it is important to note that the complete text of the Passion has a historically interesting appendix, which is a long passage describing Peter the Iberian’s moving of the of James from to a site near Oxyrhynchus in Egypt. This passage should be attributed to the end of the fifth century.

A summary of the complete Bohairic redaction of the Passion follows. Under the Persian king Iskarat, son of Shapur I, a great persecution was unleashed against the Christians. James was a nobleman, and a member of the king’s council. Although he was a Christian, at first he did not react. His mother and wife urged him in a long letter to hold fast to the faith. James repented his silence, was reported to the authorities, and brought before the king. There follow the scenes of and various disputes usual in accounts of martyrs and also James’ of Jesus and healing.

James was eventually condemned to death and carried to the place of execution. The execution scene is the principal part of the Passio, which consists of a description of the martyr’s limbs being cut off and his pronouncing a long prayer at the loss of each piece. He is then decapitated. Some believers recover his body, and his mother, sister, and wife build a martyrium. However, the king gives the order for all martyria to be burned. The martyr’s remains are then rescued and taken to Jerusalem.

The appendix concerns the translation of the remains to Egypt. Peter the Iberian, who was from the royal family, was a monk and bishop of Mayuma near Gaza. He was persecuted for being anti-Chalcedonian and fled to Alexandria, where two of his disciples joined him with the of James. However, at Alexandria he was persecuted again and he fled to Bishop Moses at Oxyrhynchus. At Paim near Oxyrhynchus he and his disciples built a shrine where James’s relics could finally rest in peace.


  • Balestri, I., and H. Hyvernat. Acta Martyrum, 2 vols. CSCO 43, 44. Paris, 1908.
  • Bedjan, P., ed. Acta Martyrum et Sanctorum Siriace, 7 vols. Paris and Leipzig, 1890-1897. Repr. Hildesheim, 1968.
  • Devos, P. “ dossier hagiographique de S. Jacques l’Intercis.” Analecta Bollandiana 71 (1953):157-210.
  • Evelyn-White, H. G. New Coptic Texts from the Monastery of Saint Macarius. New York, 1926.
  • Winstedt, E. O. “Coptic Saints and Sinners.” Proceedings of the Society of Biblical Archeology 30 (1908):231-37, 276-83; 32 (1910):195-202, 246-52; 33 (1911):113-20.