Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, May 30th, 2024
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
Partner with StudyLight.org as God uses us to make a difference for those displaced by Russia's war on Ukraine.
Click to donate today!

Bible Commentaries

Barclay's Daily Study BibleDaily Study Bible

- James

by William Barclay



James is one of the books which bad a very hard fight to get into the New Testament. Even when it did come to be regarded as Scripture, it was spoken of with a certain reserve and suspicion, and even as late as the sixteenth century Luther would gladly have banished it from the New Testament altogether.

The Doubts Of The Fathers

In the Latin-speaking part of the Church it is not until the middle of the fourth century that James emerges in the writings of the fathers. The first list of New Testament books ever to be compiled is the Muratorian Canon, which dates to about A.D. 170, and James is absent from it. Tertullian, writing in the middle of the third century, is an immense quoter of Scripture; he has 7,258 quotations from the New Testament, but never one from James. The first appearance of James in Latin is in a Latin manuscript called the Codex Corbeiensis, which dates to about A.D. 350. This manuscript attributes the authorship of the book to James the son of Zebedee; and includes it, not with the universally acknowledged New Testament books, but with a collection of religious tracts written by the early fathers. James has now emerged, but it is accepted with a certain reservation. The first Latin writer to quote James verbatim is Hilary of Poitiers in a work On the Trinity, written about A.D. 357.

If, then, James was so late in emerging in the Latin Church and if, when it did emerge, it was still regarded with some uncertainty, how did it become integrated into the New Testament? The moving influence was that of Jerome, for he unhesitatingly included James in his Vulgate version of the New Testament. But even then there is an accent of doubt. In his book On Famous Men, Jerome writes, "James, who is called the brother of the Lord...wrote only one epistle, which is one of the seven catholic epistles, and which, some people say, was issued by someone else under James' name." Jerome fully accepted the letter as Scripture, but he felt that there was some doubt as to who the writer was. The doubt was finally set at rest by the fact that Augustine fully accepted James, and was not in doubt that the James in question was the brother of our Lord.

James was late in emerging in the Latin Church; for long there was a kind of question mark against it; but Jerome's inclusion of it in the Vulgate and Augustine's full acceptance of it, brought it in the end, albeit after a struggle, full recognition.

The Syrian Church

One would have thought that the Syrian Church would have been the first to accept James, if it was really written in Palestine and was really the work of the brother of our Lord; but in the Syrian Church there was the same oscillation. The official New Testament of the Syrian Church is called the Peshitto. This was to the Syrian Church what the Vulgate was to the Latin Church. It was made by Rabbula, the Bishop of Edessa, about A.D. 412 and in it for the first time James was translated into Syriac. Up to that time there was no Syriac version of the book, and up to A.D. 451 there is no trace of James in Syriac religious literature. After that James was widely enough accepted, but as late as A.D. 545 Paul of Nisibis was still questioning its right to be in the New Testament. It was not, in fact, until midway through the eighth century that the great authority of John of Damascus did for James in the Syrian Church what Augustine had done for it in the Latin.

The Greek Church

Although James emerged sooner in the Greek-speaking Church than it did in the Latin and Syrian, it was none the less late in making a definite appearance. The first writer to quote it by name is Origen, head of the school of Alexandria. Writing almost midway through the third century, he says, "If faith is called faith, but exists apart from works, such a faith is dead, as we read in the letter which is currently reported to be by James." It is true that in other works he quotes it as being without doubt by James and shows that he believes James to be the brother of our Lord; but once again there is the accent of doubt. Eusebius, the great scholar of Caesarea, investigated the position of the various books in the New Testament or on its fringe midway through the fourth century. He classes James amongst the books which are "disputed"; and he writes of it: "The first of the epistles called Catholic is said to be his (James'); but it must be noted that some regard it as spurious; and it is certainly true that very few of the ancient writers mention it." Here again is the accent of doubt. Eusebius himself accepted James but he was well aware that there were those who did not. The turning-point in the Greek-speaking Church came in A.D. 367. In that year Athanasius issued his famous Easter Letter in Egypt. Its purpose was to inform his people what books were Scripture and what were not, because apparently their reading had become too wide, or at least, too many books were being regarded as Holy Writ. In that Letter James was included without qualification; and its position was thenceforth safe.

So, then, in the early church no one really questioned the value of James; but in every branch of it it was late in emerging and had to go through a period when its right to be considered a New Testament book was under dispute.

In fact the history of James is still to be seen in its position in the Roman Catholic Church. In 1546 the Council of Trent once and for all laid down the Roman Catholic Bible. A list of books was given to which none could be added and from which none could be subtracted, and which had to be read in the Vulgate Version and in no other. The books were divided into two classes; those which were proto-canonical, that is to say, those which had been unquestioningly accepted from the beginning; and those which were deutero-canonical, that is to say, those which only gradually won their way into the New Testament. Although the Roman Catholic Church never had any doubts about James, it is none the less in the second class that it is included.

Luther And James

In our own day it is true to say that James, at least for most people, does not occupy a position in the forefront of the New Testament. Few would mention it in the same breath as John or Romans, or Luke or Galatians. There is still for many a kind of reservation about it. Why should that be? It cannot have to do with the doubt about James in the early church, for the history of the New Testament books in these distant days is not known to many people in the modern Church. The reason lies in this. In the Roman Catholic Church the position of James was finally settled by the Edict of the Council of Trent; but in the Protestant Church its history continued to be troubled, and indeed, became even more troubled, because Luther attacked it and would have ejected it from the New Testament altogether. In his printing of the German New Testament Luther had a contents page with the books set out and numbered. At the end of the list there was a little group, separate from the others and with no numbers assigned to them. That group comprised James, Jude, Hebrews and Revelation. These were books which he held to be secondary.

Luther was specially severe on James, and the adverse judgment of a great man on any book can be a millstone round its neck for ever. It is in the concluding paragraph of his Preface to the New Testament that there stands Luther's famous verdict on James:

In sum: the gospel and the first epistle of St. John, St. Paul's

epistles, especially those to the Romans, Galatians and Ephesians;

and St. Peter's first epistle, are the books which show Christ to

you. They teach everything you need to know for your salvation,

even if you were never to see or hear any other book or hear any

other teaching. In comparison with these the epistle of James is

an epistle full of straw, because it contains nothing evangelical.

But more about this in other prefaces.

As he promised, Luther developed this verdict in the Preface to the Epistles of St. James and St. Jude. He begins: "I think highly of the epistle of James, and regard it as valuable although it was rejected in early days. It does not expound human doctrines, but lays much emphasis on God's law. Yet to give my own opinion, without prejudice to that of anyone else, I do not hold it to be of apostolic authorship." He then goes on to give his reasons for this rejection.

First, in direct opposition to Paul and the rest of the Bible, it ascribes justification to works, quoting Abraham wrongly as one who was justified by his works. This in itself proves that the epistle cannot be of apostolic origin.

Second, not once does it give to Christians any instruction or reminder of the Passion, Resurrection, or Spirit of Christ. It mentions Christ only twice. Then Luther goes on to state his own principle for testing any book: "The true touchstone for testing any book is to discover whether it emphasises the prominence of Christ or not.... What does not teach Christ is not apostolic, not even if taught by Peter or Paul. On the other hand what does preach Christ is apostolic, even if Judas, Annas, Pilate, or Herod does it." On that test James fails. So Luther goes on: "The epistle of James however only drives you to the law and its works. He mixes one thing to another to such an extent that I suspect some good and pious man assembled a few things said by disciples of the apostles, and put them down in black and white; or perhaps the epistle was written by someone else who made notes of a sermon of his. He calls the law a law of freedom ( James 1:25; James 2:12), although St. Paul calls it a law of slavery, wrath, death, and sin" ( Galatians 3:23 ff.; Romans 4:15; Romans 7:10 ff.).

So Luther comes to his conclusion: "In sum: he wishes to guard against those who depended on faith without going on to works, but he had neither the spirit, nor the thought, nor the eloquence equal to the task. He does violence to Scripture, and so contradicts Paul and all Scripture. He tries to accomplish by emphasising law what the apostles bring about by attracting man to love. I therefore refuse him a place among the writers of the true canon of my Bible; but I would not prevent anyone else placing him or raising him where he likes, for the epistle contains many excellent passages. One man does not count as a man even in the eyes of the world; how then shall this single and isolated writer count against Paul and all the rest of the Bible?"

Luther does not spare James; and it may be that once we have studied the book we may think that for once he allowed personal prejudice to injure sound judgment.

Such, then, is the troubled history of James. Now we must try to answer the questions it poses regarding authorship and date.

The Identity Of James

The author of this letter gives us practically no information about himself He calls himself simply: "James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ" ( James 1:1). Who then is he? In the New Testament there are apparently at least five people who bear that name.

(i) There is the James who was the father of the member of the Twelve called Judas, not Iscariot ( Luke 6:16). He is no more than a name and cannot have had any connection with this letter.

(ii) There is James, the son of Alphaeus, who was a member of the Twelve ( Matthew 10:3; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:15; Acts 1:13). A comparison of Matthew 9:9 with Mark 2:14 makes it certain that Matthew and Levi were one and the same person. Levi was also a son of Alphaeus, and therefore Matthew and this James must have been brothers. But of James, the son of Alphaeus, nothing else is known; and he also can have had no connection with this letter.

(iii) There is the James who is called James the Younger and is mentioned in Mark 15:40 (compare Matthew 27:56; John 19:25). Again nothing is known of him, and he cannot have had any connection with this letter.

(iv) There is James, the brother of John, and the son of Zebedee, a member of the twelve ( Matthew 10:2; Mark 3:17; Luke 6:14; Acts 1:13). In the gospel story James never appears independently of his brother John ( Matthew 4:21; Matthew 17:1; Mark 1:19; Mark 1:29; Mark 5:37; Mark 9:2; Mark 10:35; Mark 10:41; Mark 13:3; Mark 14:33; Luke 5:10; Luke 8:51; Luke 9:28; Luke 9:54). He was the first of the apostolic band to be martyred, for he was beheaded on the orders of Herod Agrippa the First in the year A.D. 44. He has been connected with the letter. The fourth century Latin Codex Corbeiensis at the end of the epistle, has a note quite definitely ascribing it to James the son of Zebedee. The only place where this ascription of authorship was taken seriously was in the Spanish Church, in which, down to the end of the seventeenth century, he was often hold to be the author. This was due to the fact that St. James of Compostella, the patron saint of Spain, is identified with James the son of Zebedee; and it was natural that the Spanish Church should be predisposed to wish that their country's patron saint should be the author of a New Testament letter. But the martyrdom of James came too early for him to have written the letter, and in any event there is nothing beyond the Codex Corbeiensis to connect him with it.

(v) Finally, there is James, who is called the brother of Jesus. Although the first definite connection of him with this letter does not emerge until Origen in the first half of the third century, it is to him that it has always been traditionally ascribed. The Roman Catholic Church agrees with this ascription, for in 1546 the Council of Trent laid it down that James is canonical and is written by an apostle.

Let us then collect the evidence about this James. From the New Testament we learn that he was one of the brothers of Jesus ( Mark 6:3; Matthew 13:55). We shall later discuss in what sense the word brother is to be taken. During Jesus' ministry it is clear that his family did not understand or sympathize with him and would have wished to restrain him ( Matthew 12:46-50; Mark 3:21; Mark 3:31-35; John 7:3-9). John says bluntly, "For even his brothers did not believe in him" ( John 7:5). So, then, during Jesus' earthly ministry James was numbered amongst his opponents.

With Acts there comes a sudden and unexplained change. When Acts opens, Jesus' mother and his brothers are there with the little group of Christians ( Acts 1:14). From there onwards it becomes clear that James has become the leader of the Jerusalem Church although how that came about is never explained. It is to James that Peter sends the news of his escape from prison ( Acts 12:17). James presides over the Council of Jerusalem which agreed to the entry of the Gentiles into the Christian Church ( Acts 15:1-41). It is James and Peter whom Paul meets when he first goes to Jerusalem; and it is with Peter, James and John, the pillars of the Church, that he discusses and settles his sphere of work ( Galatians 1:19; Galatians 2:9). It is to James that Paul comes with his collection from the Gentile Churches on the visit to Jerusalem which is destined to be his last and which leads to his imprisonment ( Acts 21:18-25). This last episode is important, for it shows James very sympathetic to the Jews who still observe the Jewish law, and so eager that their scruples should not be offended, that he actually persuades Paul to demonstrate his loyalty to the law by assuming responsibility for the expenses of certain Jews who are fulfilling a Nazirite vow.

Plainly, then, James was the leader of the Jerusalem Church. As might be expected, this was something which tradition greatly developed. Hegesippus, the early historian, says that James was the first bishop of the Church at Jerusalem. Clement of Alexandria goes further and says that he was chosen for that office by Peter and John. Jerome in his book, On Famous Men, says, "After the Passion of the Lord, James was immediately ordained bishop of Jerusalem by the apostles.... He ruled the Church of Jerusalem for thirty years, that is, until the seventh year of the reign of Nero." The Clementine Recognitions take the final step in the development of the legend, for they say that James was ordained Bishop of Jerusalem by none other than Jesus himself. Clement of Alexandria relates a strange tradition: "To James the Just, and John and Peter, after the Resurrection, the Lord committed knowledge; they committed it to the other apostles; and the other apostles to the seventy." The later developments arc not to be accepted but the basic fact remains that James was the undisputed head of the Church at Jerusalem.

James And Jesus

Such a change must have some explanation. It may well be that we have it in a brief sentence in the New Testament itself. In 1 Corinthians 15:1-58 Paul gives us a list of the Resurrection appearances of Jesus and includes the words: "Then he appeared to James" ( 1 Corinthians 15:7). It so happens that there is a strange reference to James in the Gospel according to the Hebrews, which was one of the early gospels which did not gain admittance to the New Testament but which, to judge from its surviving fragments, had much of value in it. The following passage from it is handed down by Jerome:

Now the Lord, when he had given the linen cloth unto the servant

of the High Priest, went unto James and appeared to him (for James

had sworn that he would not eat bread from that hour, wherein he

had drunk the Lord's cup, until he should see him risen again from

among them that sleep). And again after a little, "Bring ye," saith

the Lord, "a table and bread," and immediately it is added: "He

took bread and blessed and brake it and gave it unto James the Just

and said unto him, 'My brother, eat thy bread, for the Son of Man

is risen from among them that sleep.'"

That passage is not without its difficulties. The beginning seems to mean that Jesus, when he rose from the dead and emerged from the tomb, handed the linen shroud, which he had been wearing in death, to the servant of the High Priest and went to meet his brother James. It also seems to imply that James was present at the Last Supper. But although the passage has its obscurities, one thing is clear. Something about Jesus in the last days and hours had fastened on James' heart and he had vowed that he would not eat until Jesus had risen again; and so Jesus came to him and gave him the assurance for which he waited. That there was a meeting of James and the Risen Christ is certain. What passed at that moment we shall never know. But we do know this, that after it the James who had been hostile and unsympathetic to Jesus became his servant for life and his martyr in death.

James The Martyr Of Christ

That James died a martyr's death is the consistent statement of early tradition. The accounts of the circumstances vary, but the fact that he was martyred remains constant. Josephus' account is very brief (Antiquities 20: 9.1):

So Ananus, being that kind of man, and thinking that he had got

a good opportunity because Festus was dead and Albinus not yet

arrived, holds a judicial council; and he brought before it the

brother of Jesus, who was called Christ--James was his name--and

some others, and on the charge of violating the Law he gave them

over to be stoned.

Ananus was a Jewish High Priest; Festus and Albinus were procurators of Palestine, holding the same position as Pilate had held. The point of the story is that Ananus took advantage of the interregnum between the death of one procurator and the arrival of his successor to eliminate James and other leaders of the Christian Church. This, in fact, well fits the character of Ananus as it is known to us and would mean that James was martyred in A.D. 62.

A much longer account is given in the history of Hegesippus. Hegesippus' history is itself lost, but his account of the death of James has been preserved in full by Eusebius (Ecclesiastical History 2: 23). It is lengthy, but it is of such interest that it must be quoted in its entirety.

To the government of the Church in conjunction with the apostles

succeeded the Lord's brother, James, he whom all from the time

of the Lord to our own day call the Just, as there were many

named James. And he was holy from his mother's womb; wine and

strong drink he drank not, nor did he eat flesh; no razor touched

his head, he anointed himself not with oil, and used not the bath.

To him alone was it permitted to enter the Holy Place, for neither

did he wear wool, but linen clothes. And alone he would enter the

Temple, and be found prostrate on his knees beseeching pardon

for the people, so that his knees were callous like a camel's in

consequence of his continual kneeling in prayer to God and

beseeching pardon for the people. Because of his exceeding

righteousness he was called the Just, and Oblias, which is in

Greek Bulwark of the People, and Righteousness, as the prophets

declare concerning him.

Therefore, certain of the seven sects among the people, already mentioned by me in the Memoirs, asked him: "What is the door of Jesus?" and he said that He was the Saviour--of whom some accepted the faith that Jesus is the Christ. Now the aforesaid sects were not believers either in a Resurrection or in One who should come to render to every man according to his deeds; but as many as believed did so because of James. So, since many of the rulers, too, were believers, there was a tumult of the Jews and Scribes and Pharisees, for they said there was danger that all the people would expect Jesus the Christ. Accordingly they said, when they had met together with James: "We entreat thee restrain the people since it has gone astray unto Jesus, holding him to be the Christ. We entreat thee to persuade concerning Jesus all those who come to the day of the Passover, for we all listen to thee. For we and all the people testify to thee that thou art just and that thou respectest not persons. So thou, therefore, persuade the people concerning Jesus, not to go astray, for all the people and all of us listen to thee. Take thy stand, therefore, on the pinnacle of the Temple, that up there thou mayest be well seen, and thy words audible to all the people. For because of the Passover all the tribes have come together and the gentiles also."

So the aforesaid Scribes and Pharisees set James on the pinnacle of the Temple and called to him: "O thou, the Just, to whom we all ought to listen, since the people is going astray after Jesus the crucified, tell us what is the door of Jesus?" And with a loud voice he answered: "Why do you ask me concerning the Son of Man? He sitteth himself in heaven on the right hand of the great Power, and shall come on the clouds of heaven." And when many were convinced and gave glory for the witness of James, and said, "Hosanna to the Son of David," then again the same Scribes and Pharisees said to one another, "We were wrong to permit such a testimony to Jesus; but let us go up and cast him (James) down, that through fear they may not believe him." And they cried out saying, "Ho, Ho! even the Just has gone astray," and they fulfilled the Scriptures written in Isaiah: "Let us away with the Just, because he is troublesome to us; therefore they shall eat the fruits of their doings."

Accordingly they went up and cast the Just down. And they said to one another, "Let us stone James the Just," and they began to stone him, since he was not killed by the fall, but he turned and knelt down saying, "I beseech thee, Lord God Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." And so, as they were stoning him, one of the Priests of the sons of Rechab, the son of Rechabim. mentioned by Jeremiah the prophet, cried out saying, "Stop! what are ye doing? The Just prays for you." And a certain one of them, one of the fullers, taking the club with which he pounds clothes, brought it down on the head of the Just; and so he suffered martyrdom.

And they buried him there on the spot, near the Temple. A true witness has he become both to Jews and Greeks that Jesus is Christ. And immediately Vespasian besieges them.

The last sentence shows that Hegesippus had a different date for the death of James. Josephus makes it A.D. 62; but, if this happened just before the siege of Vespasian, the date is perhaps about A.D. 66.

Much in the story of Hegesippus may well be legendary but from it two things emerge. First, it is again evidence that James died a martyr's death. Second, it is evidence that, even after James became a Christian, he remained in complete loyalty to the orthodox Jewish Law. So loyal that the Jews regarded him as one of themselves. This would fit well with what we have already noted of James' attitude to Paul when he came to Jerusalem with the collection for the Jerusalem Church ( Acts 21:18-25).

The Brother Of Our Lord

There is one other question about the person of James which we must try to solve. In Galatians 1:19 Paul speaks of him as the Lord's brother. In Matthew 13:55 and in Mark 6:3 he is named among the brothers of Jesus; and in Acts 1:14, although no names are given, the brothers of Jesus are said to be amongst his followers in the earliest Church. The question of the meaning of brother is one which must be faced, for the Roman Catholic Church attaches a great deal of importance to the answer, as does the Anglo-Catholic section of the Anglican Church. Ever since the time of Jerome there has been continuous argument in the Church on this question. There are three theories of the relationship of these "brothers" to Jesus; and we shall consider them one by one.

The Hieronymian Theory

The Hieronymian Theory takes its name from Jerome, who in Greek is Hieronymos ( G ) . It was he who worked out the theory which declares that the "brothers" of Jesus were in fact his cousins; and this is the settled belief of the Roman Catholic Church, for which it is an article of faith. It was put forward by Jerome in A.D. 383 and we shall best grasp his complicated argument by setting it out in a series of steps.

(i) James the brother of our Lord is included among the apostles. Paul writes: "But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord's brother" ( Galatians 1:19).

(ii) Jerome insists that the word apostle can be used only of the Twelve. If that be so, we must look for James among them. He cannot be identified with James, brother of John and son of Zebedee, who apart from anything else was martyred by the time of Galatians 1:19, as Acts 12:2 plainly tells us. Therefore he must be identified with the only other James among the Twelve, James the son of Alphaeus.

(iii) Jerome proceeds to make another identification. In Mark 6:3 we read: "Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, brother of James and Joses?"; and in Mark 15:40 we find beside the Cross Mary the mother of James the Younger and of Joses. Since James the Younger is the brother of Joses and the son of Mary, he must therefore be the same person as the James of Mark 6:3, who is the brother of our Lord. Therefore, according to Jerome, James the brother of the Lord, James the son of Alphaeus and James the Younger are the same person under different descriptions.

(iv) Jerome bases the next and final step of his argument on a deduction made from the lists of the women who were there when Jesus was crucified. Let us set down that list as given by the three gospel writers.

In Mark 15:40 it is:

Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and Salome.

In Matthew 27:56 it is:

Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the Younger and of Joses, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.

In John 19:25 it is:

Jesus' mother, his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Cleopas, and Mary Magdalene.

Now let us analyse these lists. In each of them Mary Magdalene appears by name. It is safe to identify Salome and the mother of the sons of Zebedee. But the real problem is how many women are there in John's list? Is the list to be read like this:

(i) Jesus' mother;

(ii) Jesus' mother's sister;

(iii) Mary the wife of Cleopas;

(iv) Mary Magdalene.

Or is the list to be read like this:

(i) Jesus' mother;

(ii) Jesus' mother's sister, Mary the wife of Cleopas;

(iii) Mary Magdalene.

Jerome insists that the second way is correct and that Jesus'

Jerome insists that the second way is correct and that Jesus'

mother's sister and Mary, the wife of Cleopas, are one and the

mother's sister and Mary, the wife of Cleopas, are one and the

same person. If that be so, she must also be the Mary who in the

same person. If that be so, she must also be the Mary who in the

other lists is the mother of James and Joses. This James who is

other lists is the mother of James and Joses. This James who is

her son is the man who is variously known as James the Younger

her son is the man who is variously known as James the Younger

and as James the son of Alphaeus and as James the apostle who is

and as James the son of Alphaeus and as James the apostle who is

known as the brother of our Lord. This means that James is the

known as the brother of our Lord. This means that James is the

son of Mary's sister and therefore is Jesus' cousin.

son of Mary's sister and therefore is Jesus' cousin.

There, then, is Jerome's argument. Against it at least four criticisms can be levelled.

(i) Again and again James is called the brother of Jesus or is numbered amongst the brothers of Jesus. The word used in each case is adelphos ( G ) , the normal word for brother. True, it can describe people who belong to a common fellowship, just as the Christians called each other brother. True, it can be used as a term of endearment and we may call someone with whom we enjoy personal intimacy a brother. But when it is used of those who are kin, it is, to say the least of it, very doubtful that it can mean cousin. If James was the cousin of Jesus, it is extremely unlikely--perhaps impossible--that he would be called the adelphos ( G ) of Jesus.

(ii) Jerome was quite wrong in assuming that the term apostle could be used only of the Twelve. Paul was an apostle ( Romans 1:1; 1 Corinthians 1:1; 2 Corinthians 1:1; Galatians 1:1). Barnabas was an apostle ( Acts 14:14; 1 Corinthians 9:6). Silas was an apostle ( Acts 15:22). Andronicus and Junia were apostles ( Romans 16:7). It is impossible to limit the word apostle to the Twelve; since, therefore, it is not necessary to look for James the Lord's brother among the Twelve, the whole argument of Jerome collapses.

(iii) It is on the face of it much more likely that John 19:25 is a list of four women, not three, for, if Mary the wife of Cleopas were the sister of Mary, Jesus' mother, it would mean that there were two sisters in the same family both called Mary, which is extremely unlikely.

(iv) It must be remembered that the Church knew nothing of this theory until A.D. 383 when Jerome produced it; and it is quite certain that it was produced for no other reason than to conserve the doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary.

The theory that those called Jesus' brothers were, in fact, his cousins must be dismissed as rendered quite untenable by the facts of the case.

The Epiphanian Theory

The second of the great theories concerning the relationship of Jesus and his "brothers" holds that these "brothers" were, in fact, his half-brothers, sons of Joseph by a previous marriage. This is called the Epiphanian Theory after Epiphanius who strongly affirmed it about A.D. 370. He did not construct it. It existed long before this and may indeed be said to be the most usual opinion in the early church.

The substance of it already appears in an apocryphal book called the Book of James or the Protevangelium which dates back to the middle of the second century. That book tells how there was a devout husband and wife called Joachim and Anna. Their great grief was that they had no child. To their great joy in their old age a child was born to them, and this too, apparently, was regarded as a virgin birth. The child, a girl, was called Mary and was to be the mother of Jesus. Joachim and Anna vowed their child to the Lord; and when she reached the age of three they took her to the Temple and left her there in the charge of the priests. She grew up in the Temple; and when she reached the age of twelve the priests took thought for her marriage. They called together the widowers of the people, telling each man to bring his rod with him. Among them came Joseph the carpenter. The High Priest took the rods, and Joseph's was last. To the other rods nothing happened; but from the rod of Joseph there flew a dove which came and settled on Joseph's head. In this way it was revealed that Joseph was to take Mary to wife. Joseph at first was very unwilling. "I have sons," he said, "and I am an old man, but she is a girl: lest I become a laughing-stock to the children of Israel" (Prolevangelium 9: 1). But in the end he took her in obedience to the will of God, and in due time Jesus was born. The material of the Protevangelium is, of course, legendary; but it shows that by the middle of the second century the theory which was one day to bear the name of Epiphanius was widely held.

There is no direct evidence for this theory whatsoever and all the support adduced in its favour is of an indirect character.

(i) It is asked: would Jesus have committed his mother to the care of John, if she had other sons besides himself? ( John 19:26-27). The answer is that, so far as we know, Jesus' family were quite out of sympathy with him and it would hardly have been possible to commit his mother to their care.

(ii) It is argued that the behaviour of Jesus' "brothers" to him is that of elder brothers to a younger brother. They questioned his sanity and wished to take him home ( Mark 3:21; Mark 3:31-35); they were actively hostile to him ( John 7:1-5). But it could just as well be argued that their conduct was due to the simple fact that they found him an embarrassment to the family in a way that had nothing to do with age.

(iii) It is argued that Joseph must have been older than Mary because he vanishes completely from the gospel story and, therefore, probably had died before Jesus' public ministry began. The mother of Jesus was at the wedding feast at Cana of Galilee, but there is no mention of Joseph ( John 2:1). Jesus is called, at least sometimes, the son of Mary, and the implication is that Joseph was dead and Mary was a widow ( Mark 6:3; but compare Matthew 13:55). Further, Jesus' long stay in Nazareth until he was thirty years of age ( Luke 3:23), is most easily explained by the assumption that Joseph had died and that Jesus had become responsible for the support of the household. But the fact that Joseph was older than Mary does not by any means prove that he had no other children by her; and the fact that Jesus stayed in Nazareth as the village carpenter in order to support the family would much more naturally indicate that he was the eldest, and not the youngest, son.

To these arguments Lightfoot would add two more of a general nature.

First, he says that this is the theory of Christian tradition; and, second, he claims that anything else is "abhorrent to Christian sentiment."

But basically this theory springs from the same origin as the Hieronymian theory. Its aim is to conserve the perpetual virginity of Mary. There is no direct evidence whatsoever for it; and no one would ever have thought of it had it not been for the desire to think that Mary never ceased to be a virgin.

The Helvidian Theory

The third theory is called the Helvidian Theory. It states quite simply that the brothers and sisters of Jesus were in the full sense of the term his brothers and sisters, that, to use the technical term, they were his uterine brothers and sisters. Nothing whatever is known of the Helvidius with whose name this theory is connected except that he wrote a treatise to support it which Jerome strongly opposed. What then may be said in favour of it?

(i) No one reading the New Testament story without theological presuppositions would ever think of anything else. On the face of it that story does not think of Jesus' brothers and sisters as anything else but his brothers and sisters in the full sense of the term.

(ii) The birth narratives both in Matthew and Luke presuppose that Mary had other children. Matthew writes: "When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not till she had borne a son" ( Matthew 1:24-25). The clear implication is that Joseph entered into normal married relationships with Mary after the birth of Jesus. Tertullian, in fact, uses this passage to prove that both virginity and the married state are consecrated in Christ by the fact that Mary was first a virgin and then a wife in the full sense of the term. Luke in writing of the birth of Jesus says: "She gave birth to her first-born son" ( Luke 2:7). To call Jesus a first-born son is plainly to indicate that other children followed.

(iii) As we have already said, the fact that Jesus remained in Nazareth as the village carpenter until the age of thirty is at least an indication that he was the eldest son and had to take upon himself the responsibility of the support of the family after the death of Joseph.

We believe that the brothers and sisters of Jesus were in truth his brothers and sisters. Any other theory ultimately springs from the glorification of asceticism and from a wish to regard Mary as for ever a virgin. It is surely a far more lovely thing to believe in the sanctity of the home than to insist that celibacy is a higher thing than married love.

So, then, we believe that James, called the Lord's brother, was in every sense the brother of Jesus.

James As The Author

Can we then say that this James was also the author of this letter? Let us collect the evidence in favour of that view.

(i) If James wrote a letter at all, it would most naturally be a general epistle, as this is. James was not, like Paul, a traveller and a man of many congregations. He was the leader of the Jewish section of the Church; and the kind of letter we would expect him to write would be a general epistle directed to all Jewish Christians.

(ii) There is scarcely anything in the letter that a good Jew could not accept. So much so that there are those who think that it is actually a Jewish ethical tract which has found its way into the New Testament. A. H. McNeile has pointed out that in instance after instance there are phrases in James which can be read equally well in a Christian or a Jewish sense. The Twelve Tribes of the Dispersion ( James 1:1) could be taken either of the exiled Jews scattered all over the world or of the Christian Church, the new Israel of God. "The Lord" can again and again in this letter be understood equally well of Jesus or of God ( James 1:7; James 4:10; James 4:15; James 5:7-8; James 5:10-11; James 5:14-15). Our bringing forth by God by the word of his truth to be the first fruits of his creation ( James 1:18) can equally well be understood of God's first act of creation or of his re-creation of men in Jesus Christ. The perfect law and the royal law ( James 1:25; James 2:8), can equally well be understood of the ethical law of the Ten Commandments or of the new law of Christ. The elders of the Church, the ekklesia ( G ) ( James 5:14), can equally well be understood as meaning the elders of the Christian Church or the Jewish elders, for in the Septuagint ekklesia ( G ) is the title of the chosen nation of God. In James 2:2 "your assembly" is spoken of. The word there used for assembly is sunagoge ( G ) , which can mean the synagogue even more readily than it can mean the Christian congregation. The habit of addressing its readers as brothers is thoroughly Christian, but it is equally thoroughly Jewish. The coming of the Lord and the picture of the Judge standing at the door ( James 5:7; James 5:9) are just as common in Jewish thought as in Christian thought. The accusation that they have murdered the righteous man ( James 5:6) is a phrase which occurs again and again in the prophets, but a Christian could read it as a statement of the Crucifixion of Christ. There is nothing in this letter which an orthodox Jew could not heartily accept, if he read it in his own terms.

It could be argued that all this perfectly suits James. He was the leader of what might be called Jewish Christianity; he was the head of that part of the Church which remained centred in Jerusalem. There must have been a time when the Church was very close to Judaism and it was more a reformed Judaism than anything else. There was a kind of Christianity which had not the width or the universality which the mind of Paul put into it. Paul himself said that the sphere of the Gentiles had been allocated to him and the sphere of the Jews to Peter, James and John ( Galatians 2:9). The letter of James may well represent a kind of Christianity which had remained in its earliest form. This would explain two things.

First, it would explain the frequency with which James repeats the teaching of the Sermon on the Mount. We may, out of many instances, compare James 2:12-13 and Matthew 6:14-15; James 3:11-13 and Matthew 7:16-20; James 5:12 and Matthew 5:34-37. Any Jewish Christian would be supremely interested in the ethical teaching of the Christian faith.

Second, it would help to explain the relationship of this letter to the teaching of Paul. At a first reading James 2:14-26 reads like a direct attack on Paulinism. "A man is justified by works and not by faith alone" ( James 2:24) seems a flat contradiction of the Pauline doctrine of justification by faith. But what James is attacking is a so-called faith which has no ethical results and one thing is quite clear--anyone who charges Paul with preaching such a faith cannot possibly have read his letters. They are full of ethical demands, as, for instance, a chapter like Romans 12:1-21 illustrates. Now James died in A.D. 62 and, therefore, could not have read Paul's letters which did not become the common property of the Church until at least A.D. 90. Therefore what James is attacking is either a misunderstanding of what Paul said or a perversion of it; and nowhere was such a misunderstanding or perversion more likely to arise than in Jerusalem, where Paul's stress on faith and grace and his attack on the law were likely to be regarded with more suspicion than anywhere else.

(iii) It has been pointed out that James and the letter of the Council of Jerusalem to the Gentile Churches have at least two rather curious resemblances. Both begin with the word Greeting ( James 1:1; Acts 15:23). The Greek is chairein ( G ) . This was the normal Greek beginning to a letter, but nowhere else in all the New Testament is it found other than in the letter of Claudius Lysias, the military officer, to the governor of the province quoted in Acts 23:26-30. Second, Acts 15:17 has a phrase in the letter of the Council of Jerusalem in which it speaks of the Gentiles who are called by my name. This phrase occurs nowhere else in the New Testament other than in James 2:7 where it is translated the name by which you are called. Although the Revised Standard Version translations differ slightly, the Greek is exactly the same. It is curious that the letter of the Council of Jerusalem presents us with two unusual phrases which recur only in James, when we remember that the letter of the Council of Jerusalem must have been drafted by James.

There is then evidence which lends colour to the belief that James was the work of James, the Lord's brother and head of the Jerusalem Church.

On the other hand there are facts which make us a little doubtful if he was, after all, the author.

(i) If the writer was the brother of our Lord, we would have expected him to make some reference to that fact. All he calls himself is "a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ" ( James 1:1). Such a reference would not have been in any sense for his own personal glory, but simply to lend authority to his letter. And such authority would have been specially useful outside Palestine, in countries where James could hardly have been known. If the author was indeed the Lord's brother, it is surprising that he makes no reference, direct or indirect, to that fact.

(ii) Failing a reference to his relationship to Jesus, we would have expected a reference to the fact that he was an apostle. It was Paul's regular custom to begin his letters with a reference to his apostleship. Again it is not a question of personal prestige but simply a guarantee of the authority by which he writes. If this James was indeed the Lord's brother and the head of the Jerusalem Church, we should have expected some reference at the beginning of the letter to his apostolic status.

(iii) The most surprising fact of all is that which made Luther question the right of this letter to a place in the New Testament--the almost complete absence of any references to Jesus Christ. Only twice in the whole letter is his name mentioned and these mentions are almost incidental ( James 1:1; James 2:1).

There is no reference at all to his Resurrection. We know well that the early church was built on faith in the Risen Christ. If this letter is the work of James, it is contemporary, with the events of Acts in which the Resurrection is mentioned no fewer than twenty-five times. What makes it still more surprising is that James had a personal reason for writing about the appearance of Jesus which may well have been what changed the direction of his life. It is surprising that anyone writing at such a time in the Church's history should write without reference to the Resurrection of Jesus; and it is doubly surprising if the writer should be James the brother of our Lord.

Further, there is no reference to Jesus as Messiah. If James, the leader of the Jewish Church, was writing to Jewish Christians in these very early days, one would have thought his main aim would have been to present Jesus as Messiah or that at least he would have made his belief in that fact plain; but the letter does not mention it.

(iv) It is plain that the writer of this letter is steeped in the Old Testament; it is also plain that he is intimately acquainted with the Wisdom Literature; and that in James is only to be expected. There are in his letter twenty-three apparent quotations from the Sermon on the Mount; that too is easy to understand, because from the very beginning, long before the gospels were written, compendiums of Jesus' teaching must have circulated. It is argued by some that he must have known Paul's letters to the Romans and to the Galatians in order to write as he does about faith and works, and it is argued rightly that a Jew who had never been outside Palestine and who died in A.D. 62 could not have known these letters. As we have seen, this argument will not stand, because the criticism of Paul's doctrine in James is criticism which could have been offered only by someone who had not read the letters of Paul at first hand and who is dealing with a misunderstanding or a perversion of Pauline doctrine. But the phrase in James 1:17: "Every good endowment and every perfect gift," is an hexametre line and clearly a quotation from some Greek poet; and the phrase in James 3:6: "the cycle of nature" may be an Orphic phrase from the mystery religions. How could James of Palestine pick up quotations like these?

There are things which are difficult to account for on the assumption that James, the brother of our Lord, was the author of this letter.

The evidence for and against James' authorship of this letter is extraordinarily evenly balanced. For the moment we must leave the matter in suspense and turn to certain other questions.

The Date Of The Letter

When we turn to the evidence for the date of the letter we find this same even balance. It is possible to argue that it is very early, and equally possible to argue that it is rather late.

(i) When James was writing, it is clear that the hope of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ was still very real ( James 5:7-9). Now the expectation of the Second Coming never left the Christian Church, but it did to some extent fade from the foreground of its thought as it was unexpectedly long delayed. This would suggest an early date.

(ii) In the early chapters of Acts and in the letters of Paul, there is a continuous background of Jewish controversy against the accepting of the Gentiles into the Church on the basis of faith alone. Wherever Paul went the Judaizers followed him, and the acceptance of the Gentiles was not a battle which was readily won. In James there is not even a hint of this Jewish-Gentile controversy, a fact which is doubly surprising when we remember that James, the Lord's brother, took a leading part in settling it at the Council of Jerusalem. That being so, this letter could be either very early and written before that controversy emerged; or, it could be late and written after the last echo of the controversy had died away. The fact that there is no mention of the Jewish-Gentile controversy can be used as an argument either way.

(iii) The evidence from the Church order reflected in the letter is equally conflicting. The meeting place of the Church is still called the sunagoge ( G ) ( James 2:2). That points to an early date; later an assembly of Christians would definitely be called the ekklesia ( G ) , for the Jewish term was soon dropped. The elders of the Church are mentioned ( James 5:14), but there is no mention of either deacons or bishops. This again indicates an early date, and possibly a Jewish connection, for the eldership was a Jewish institution before it was a Christian one. James is worried about the existence of many teachers ( James 3:1). This could well indicate a very early situation, before the Church had systematized its ministry and introduced some kind of order; or, it could indicate a late date, when many false teachers had arisen to plague the Church.

There are two general facts which seem on the whole to indicate that James is late. First, as we have seen there is hardly any mention of Jesus at all. The subject of the letter is, in fact, the inadequacies and the imperfections, the sins and the mistakes of the members of the Church. This seems to point to a fairly late date. The early preaching was ablaze with the grace and the glory of the Risen Christ; later preaching became, as it so often is today, a tirade against the imperfections of the members of the Church. The second general fact is the condemnation of the rich ( James 2:1-3; James 5:1-6). The flattery of the rich and the arrogance of the rich seem to have been real problems when this letter was written. Now in the very early church there were few, if any, rich men ( 1 Corinthians 1:26-27). James seems to indicate a later time when the once poor Church was being threatened with a spirit of worldliness in its members.

The Preachers Of The Ancient World

It will help us to date this so-called letter of James and may also help us to identify its author, if we place it in its context in the ancient world.

The sermon is identified with the Christian Church, but it was by no means its invention. It had roots in both the Hellenistic and the Jewish world; and when we set James beside the Hellenistic and the Jewish sermons we cannot fail to be struck by the resemblances.

1. Let us look first at the Greek preachers and their sermons. The wandering philosopher was a common figure in the ancient world. Sometimes he was a Stoic; far more often he was a Cynic. Wherever men were gathered together you would find him there calling them to virtue. You would find him at the street comer and in the city squares; you would find him at the vast concourses which gathered for the games: you would even find him at the gladiatorial games, sometimes, even directly addressing the emperor, rebuking him for luxury and tyranny, and calling him to virtue and justice. The ancient preacher, the philosopher-missionary, was a regular figure in the ancient world. There was a time when philosophy had been the business of the schools, but now its voice and its ethical demands were to be heard daily in the public places.

These ancient sermons had certain characteristics. The method was always the same; and that method had deeply influenced Paul's presentation of the gospel, and James was in the same line of descent. We list some of the tricks of the trade of these ancient preachers, noting bow they occur in James and bearing in mind the way in which Paul writes to his Churches. The main aim of these ancient preachers, it must be remembered, was not to investigate new truth; it was to awaken sinners to the error of their ways and compel them to look at truths, which they knew but were deliberately neglecting or had forgotten. Their aim was to confront men with the good life in the midst of the looseness of their living and their forgetfulness of the gods.

(i) They frequently carried on imaginary conversations with imaginary opponents, speaking in what has been called a kind of "truncated dialogue." James also uses that method in James 2:18 ff. and James 5:13 ff.

(ii) They habitually effected their transition from one part of the sermon to another, by way of a question which introduced the new subject. Again James does that in James 2:14 and James 4:1.

(iii) They were very fond of imperatives in which they commanded their hearers to right action and to the abandoning of their errors. In James' 108 verses there are almost 60 imperatives.

(iv) They were very fond of the rhetorical question flung out at their audience. James frequently employs such questions (compare James 2:4-5; James 2:14-16; James 3:11-12; James 4:4).

(v) They frequently dealt in apostrophes, vivid direct addresses to particular sections of the audience. So James apostrophizes the merchants out for gain and the arrogant rich ( James 4:13; James 5:6).

(vi) They were fond of personifying virtues and vices, sins and graces. So James personifies sin ( James 1:15); mercy ( James 2:13); rust ( James 5:3).

(vii) They sought to awaken the interest of their audience by pictures and figures from everyday life. The figure of the bridle, the rudder and the forest fire are standard figures in the ancient sermons (compare James 3:3-6). Amongst many others James vividly uses the picture of the farmer and his patience ( James 5:7).

(viii) They frequently used the example of famous men and women to point their moral. So James uses the examples of Abraham ( James 2:21-23); Rahab ( James 2:25); Job ( James 5:11); Elijah ( James 5:17).

(ix) It was the custom of the ancient preachers to begin their sermon with a paradox which would arrest the attention of their hearers. James does that by telling a man to think it all joy when he is involved in trials ( James 1:2). In the same way the ancient preachers often pointed out how true goodness meant the reversal of all popular verdicts on life. So James insists that the happiness of the rich lies in their being brought low ( James 1:10). They used the weapon of irony as James does ( James 2:14-19; James 5:1-6).

(x) The ancient preachers could speak with harshness and with sternness. So James addresses his reader as: "Foolish fellow!" and calls those who listen to him unfaithful creatures ( James 2:20; James 4:4). The ancient preachers used the lash and so does James.

(xi) The ancient preachers had certain standard ways of constructing their sermons.

(a) They often concluded a section with a vivid antithesis, setting the right beside the wrong way. James follows the same custom (compare James 2:13; James 2:26).

(b) They often made their point by means of a searching question fired at the hearer; and so does James ( James 4:12).

(c) They often used quotations in their preaching. This also James does ( James 5:20; James 1:11; James 1:17; James 4:6; James 5:11).

It is true that we do not find in James the bitterness, the scolding, the frivolous and often broad humour that the Greek preachers used; but it is plain to see that he uses all the other methods which the wandering Hellenistic preachers used to win their way into the minds and hearts of men.

2. The Jewish world also had its tradition of preaching. That preaching was done mainly by the Rabbis at the services of the synagogue. It had many of the characteristics of the preaching of the Greek wandering philosophers. It had its rhetorical questions and its imperatives and its pictures taken from life, and its quotations and its citations of the heroes of the faith. But Jewish preaching had one curious characteristic. It was deliberately disconnected. The Jewish masters instructed their pupils never to linger for any length of time on any one subject, but to move quickly from one subject to another in order to maintain the interest of the listener. Hence one of the names for preaching was charaz ( G ) , which literally means stringing beads. The Jewish sermon was frequently a string of moral truths and exhortations coming one after another. This is exactly what James is. It is difficult, if not impossible, to extract from it a continuous and coherent plan. Its sections follow each other with a certain disconnectedness. Goodspeed writes: "The work has been compared to a chain, each link related to the one before and the one after it. Others have compared its contents to beads on a string.... And, perhaps, James is not so much a chain of thoughts or beads as it is a handful of pearls dropped one by one into the hearer's mind."

James, whether looked at from the Hellenistic or from the Jewish point of view, is a good example of an ancient sermon. And here is, perhaps, the clue we need to its authorship. With all this in mind, let us now turn to ask who the author is.

The Author Of James

There are five possibilities.

(i) We begin with a theory worked out in detail by Meyer more than half a century ago and revived by Easton in the new Interpreter's Bible. One of the commonest things in the ancient world was for books to be published in the name of some great figure of the past. Jewish literature between the Testaments is full of writings like that, ascribed to Moses, the Twelve Patriarchs, Baruch, Enoch, Isaiah, and people of like standing in order that the added authority might give greater encouragement to their readers. This was an accepted practice. One of the best-known books in the Apocrypha is the Wisdom of Solomon, in which the later Sage attributes new wisdom to the wisest of the kings.

Let us remember three things about James. (a) There is nothing in it which an orthodox Jew could not accept, if the two references to Jesus in James 1:1 and James 2:1 are removed, as they easily may be. (b) The Greek for James is in fact Iakobos ( G ) which of course is the Old Testament Jacob. (c) The book is addressed to "the twelve tribes who are scattered abroad." This theory holds that James is nothing other than a Jewish writing, written under the name of Jacob and meant for the Jews who were scattered throughout the world to encourage them in faith and belief amidst the trials through which they might be passing in Gentile lands.

This theory is further elaborated in this way. In Genesis 49:1-33 we have Jacob's last address to his sons. The address consists of a series of short descriptions in which each son is in turn characterized. Meyer professed to be able to find in James allusions to the descriptions of each of the patriarchs and, therefore, of each of the twelve tribes, in Jacob's address. Here are some of his identifications.

Asher is the worldly rich man; James 1:9-11; Genesis 49:20.

Issachar is the doer of good deeds; James 1:12; Genesis 49:14-15.

Reuben is the first fruits; James 1:18; Genesis 49:3.

Simeon stands for anger; James 1:19-20; Genesis 49:5-7.

Levi is the tribe which is specially connected with religion and is alluded to in James 1:26-27.

Naphtali is characterized by peace; James 3:18; Genesis 49:21.

Gad stands for wars and fightings; James 4:1-2; Genesis 49:19.

Dan represents waiting for salvation; James 5:7; Genesis 49:18.

Joseph represents prayer; James 5:13-18; Genesis 49:22-26.

Benjamin stands for birth and death; James 5:20; Genesis 49:27.

That is a most ingenious theory. No one can either finally prove it or disprove it; and it certainly would explain in the most natural way the reference in James 1:1 to the twelve tribes scattered abroad. It would hold that some Christian came upon this Jewish tract, written under the name of Jacob to all the exiled Jews, and was so impressed with its moral worth, that he made certain adjustments and additions to it and issued it as a Christian book. There is no doubt that this is an attractive theory--but it is possible for a theory to be too ingenious.

(ii) Just as the Jews did, the Christians also wrote many books under the names of the great figures of the Christian faith. There are gospels issued under the name of Peter and Thomas and James himself; there is a letter under the name of Barnabas; there are gospels of Nicodemus and Bartholomew; and there are Acts of John, Paul, Andrew, Peter, Thomas, Philip and others. The technical title for these books is pseudonymous, that is, written under a false name.

It has been suggested that James was a letter written by someone else under the name of the Lord's brother. That is apparently what Jerome thought when he said that this letter "was issued by someone under James' name." But, whatever else this work is, it cannot be that because, when anyone wrote such a book, he was careful to make quite clear who was supposed to have written it. If this had been pseudonymous no possible doubt would have been left that the author was supposed to be James the brother of our Lord; but this fact is not mentioned at all.

(iii) Moffatt inclined to the theory that the writer was not the brother of our Lord, or any other well-known James, but simply a teacher called James of whose life and story we have no information whatever. That is by no means impossible for the name James was just as common then as it is now; but it would be rather difficult to understand how such a book gained entry into the New Testament, and how it came to be connected with the name of the Lord's brother.

(iv) The traditional view is that the book was written by James, the Lord's brother. We have already seen that it seems strange that such a book should have only two incidental references to Jesus, and none at all to the Resurrection or to Jesus as the Messiah. A further and most serious difficulty is this. The book is written in good Greek. Ropes says that Greek must have been the mother tongue of the man who wrote it; and Mayor, himself one of the greatest of Greek scholars, says, "I should be inclined to rate the Greek of this epistle as approaching more nearly to the standard of classical purity than that of any other book in the New Testament with the exception perhaps of the Epistle to the Hebrews." Quite certainly James' mother tongue was Aramaic and not Greek; and quite certainly he would not be a master of classical Greek. His orthodox Jewish upbringing would make him despise and avoid it, as a Gentile and accursed tongue. It is next door to impossible to think of James actually penning this letter.

(v) So we come to the fifth possibility. Let us remember how closely James resembles a sermon. It is possible that this is, in substance, a sermon preached by James, taken down by someone else, translated into Greek, added to and decorated a little and then issued to the Church at large so that all men should benefit from it. That explains its form and how it came to be attached to the name of James. It even explains the scarcity of the references to Jesus, to the Resurrection, and to the Messiahship of Jesus; for in one single sermon James could not go through the whole gamut of orthodoxy and is, in fact, pressing moral duty upon men, and not talking about theology. It seems to us that this is the one theory which explains the facts.

One thing is certain--we may approach this little letter feeling that it is one of the lesser books of the New Testament; but if we study it faithfully, we will lay it down thanking God that it was preserved for our edification and inspiration.

-Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT)

Ads FreeProfile