The deaths of James and Simon, continued (2): the manner of execution. In my opinion, Josephus
had no reason to alter facts that were not particularly important to him.
Why does he call James and Simon sons of Judas? As already mentioned, Josephus considered the Christians to be part of the Jewish insurgent movement that began with Judas the Galilean and was to end in the Great Revolt against the Romans in 66 – 70 AD. Sons simply means followers, not biological sons.
The designation ‘Christian’ could not be applied, since according to Acts 11:26 it was only used for the Christians in Antioch at this time. Nor were James and Peter representatives of a whole Christian church; they were leaders of two separate Jesus movements.
The Christians who handed down this story orally had good reason to present the deaths of the two great Apostles in a different way: the honour of the dead.
1) It was more honourable to suffer beheading by the sword rather than to die like a slave on the cross; 2) it was more honourable to be executed by the respected Jewish King Agrippa I than by the apostate Jew and Roman governor, Tiberius Alexander.
Conclusion: James died as described by Josephus.