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Bible Commentaries

Alford's Greek Testament Critical Exegetical CommentaryAlford's Greek Testament Commentary

- James

by Henry Alford





1. IT has been very generally agreed, that among the apostolic persons bearing the name of James ( Ἰάκωβος ), the son of Zebedee, the brother of St. John, cannot well have written our Epistle. The state of things and doctrines which we find in it can hardly have been reached as early as before the execution of that Apostle, related in Acts 12:0 .

2. But when we have agreed on this, matter of controversy at once arises. It would appear from the simple superscription of our Epistle with the name Ἰάκωβος , that we are to recognize in its Writer the apostolic person known simply by this name in the Acts, who was the president of the church at Jerusalem (Acts 12:17 ; Acts 15:13 ff; Act 21:18 ), and is called by St. Paul the brother of our Lord ( Gal 1:19 ). This also being pretty generally granted, the question arising is: Was this James identical with, or was he distinct from, James the son of Alphæus, one of the Twelve Apostles (Matthew 10:3 ; Mark 3:18 ; Luke 6:15 ; Act 1:13 )?

3. I have partly anticipated the answer to this question in my note on Matthew 13:55 , where I have maintained that, consistently with the straightforward acceptation of Scripture data, we cannot believe any of those who are called the brethren of our Lord to have been also of the number of the Twelve. I conceive John 7:5 , as compared with John 6:67 ; Joh 6:70 immediately preceding, to be decisive on this point; and since I first expressed myself thus, I have seen nothing in the least degree calculated to shake that conviction [98] . And, that conclusion still standing, I must of course believe this James to be excluded from the number of the Twelve, and if so, distinct from the son of Alphæus.

[98] Nothing can be lamer than the way in which Lange (in Herzog’s Encycl. art Jacobus) endeavours to escape the conclusion. I subjoin it as the latest specimen of what ingenuity can do against plain matter of fact: “The kind of unbelief here predicated of our Lord’s Brethren is parallel with that of Peter, Matthew 16:22-23 , and of Thomas, John 20:25 . John is evidently speaking, not of unbelief in the ordinary sense, which rejected the Messiahship of Jesus, but of that unbelief, or that want of trust which made it difficult for our Lord’s disciples, His Apostles, and even His Mother, to reconcile themselves to His way of life, or to His concealment of Himself.” Against this finessing I would simply set (1) the usage of πιστεύειν εἰς αἰτόν , John 2:11 ; John 4:39 ; John 7:31 ; John 7:39 ; John 7:48 ; John 8:30 ; John 9:36 ; John 10:42 ; John 11:45 ; John 11:48 ; John 12:37 (with οὐκ ), 42: and (2) the οὐδὲ γάρ , following on the unbelief of the Jews John 12:1 , with which the οἱ ἀδελφοὶ αὐτοῦ ἐπίστευον εἰς αὐτόν is introduced.

4. Still, it will be well to deal with the question on its own ground. And first, as to the notices in Scripture itself which bear on it. And these, it must be acknowledged, are not without difficulty. As e. g. those which occur in St. Luke, who must have been well aware of the state of matters in the church at Jerusalem. He names, up to Acts 12:0 , but two persons as James: one, whom he always couples with John (Luke 5:10 ; Luke 6:14 ; Luke 8:51 ; Luke 9:28 ; Luke 9:54 ( Act 1:13 )), and in Act 12:2 relates, under the name of τὸν ἀδελφὸν Ἰωάννου , to have been slain with the sword by Herod: the other, whom he twice introduces as Ἰάκωβος ὁ τοῦ Ἀλφαίου (Luke 6:15 ; Act 1:13 ). Besides, the genitive of the name, Ἰακώβου , designating by relationship other persons: in Luk 6:16 and Acts 1:13 , we read of Ἰούδας Ἰακώβου , and in Luke 24:10 , of Μαρία Ἰακώβου : interpreting which latter expression by Matthew 27:56 ; Mark 15:40 ; Mark 15:47 ; Mark 16:1 , and by John 19:25 , we shall infer that the Mary here mentioned being the wife of Alphæus (or Clopas), the ellipsis must be filled up by the word mother , and Ἰακώβου in this place designates James the son of Alphæus. And as regards Ἰούδας Ἰακώβου , we may well suppose that the same person is designated by the genitive, however difficult it may be to fill in the ellipsis. We have a Judas, who designates himself ἀδελφὸς Ἰακώβου , Jude 1:1 ; but whether these are to be considered identical, must be determined by the result of our present investigation.

5. The question for us with regard to St. Luke, is the following: In Acts 12:17 , and in the subsequent parts of that book, we have a person mentioned simply as Ἰάκωβος , who is evidently of great authority in the church at Jerusalem. Are we to suppose that St. Luke, careful and accurate as his researches were, was likely to have introduced thus without previous notice, a new and third person bearing the same name? Does not this testify strongly for the identity of the two?

6. The best way to answer this question will be, to notice St. Luke’s method of proceeding on an occasion somewhat analogous. In Acts 1:13 , we find Φίλιππος among the Apostles. In Acts 6:5 , we find a Φίλιππος among the seven, appointed to relieve the Apostles from the daily ministration of alms. In Acts 8:5 , we read that Φίλιππος went down to a city of Samaria and preached. Now as there is nothing to identify this part of the narrative with what went before, or to imply that this was not a missionary journey of one of the Apostles, distinct from the διασπορά from which they were excepted above, Acts 8:1 , it is not at the first moment obvious which Philip is meant. It is true, that intelligent comparison of the parts of the narrative makes it plain to us: but the case is one in point, as shewing that St. Luke is in the habit of leaving it to such comparison to decide , and not of inserting notices at the mention of names, to prevent mistake. This would be much more in the practice of St. John, who writes, John 14:22 , Ἰούδας οὐχ ὁ Ἰσκαριώτης : cf. also John 11:2 . It seems then that the practice of St. Luke will not decide for us, but our enquiry must still be founded on the merits of the question itself.

7. And in so doing, we will make first the hypothesis of the identity of James the son of Alphæus with James the Lord’s brother. Then, besides the great, and to me insuperable difficulty in John 6:70 ; John 7:5 , we shall have the following circumstances for our consideration: (1) In Matthew 27:56 , and Mark 15:40 , we read of Mary the mother of James and Joses: and in Mark, the epithet τοῦ μικροῦ is attached to Ἰακώβου . Now on the hypothesis of James, the brother of the Lord, being identical with the son of Alphæus, there were four such sons , Matthew 13:55 ; James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas: and of these four, two, James and Judas, were Apostles. So that, leaving out of the question for the moment the confusion of the names Joses and Joseph, we should thus have Mary the wife of Clopas designated as the mother of James, who was an Apostle , and of Joses, who was not an Apostle, to the exclusion of her son Judas, who was also an Apostle. Is not this, to say the least, extremely improbable?

8. And besides this, let us review for a moment the epithet τοῦ μικροῦ , attached to Ἰακώβου by St. Mark. Beyond question, at the time when this Gospel was written, James the son of Zebedee had long ago fallen by the sword of Herod [99] . And as certainly, at this time James the Lord’s brother was at the head of the mother church at Jerusalem, one of the three pillars ( Gal 2:9 ) of the Christian body. Was it likely that at such a time (for the notice and epithet is one whose use must be sought at the time of the publication of the Gospel, not at that of the formation of the apostolic oral history, seeing that it does not occur in the parallel place in Matthew) the epithet τοῦ μικροῦ would be attached to this James by way of distinguishing him from that other, long since martyred? Is it not much more probable that the epithet, for whatever reason, was attached to James the son of Alphæus to distinguish him from this very James the brother of the Lord?

[99] See Prolegg. Vol. I. ch. iii. § iv.

9. If James the son of Alphæus, the Apostle, were the head of the mother church at Jerusalem, and a man of such distinction among the Jewish Christians, how comes it, that when an Apostle of the circumcision is to be named, over against St. Paul, St. Peter, and not he, is dignified by that title?

10. There is another more general consideration, which, however much it may be disallowed by some, yet seems to me not without weight. It hardly consists with the mission of the Twelve, that any of them should be settled in a particular spot, as the president or Bishop of a local church. Even granting the exceptional character of the Jerusalem church, it does not seem likely that the ἀρχιπρεσβύτερος there would be one of those to whom it was said πορευθέντες εἰς τὸν κόσμον ἅπαντα κηρύξατε τὸ εὐαγγέλιον πάσῃ τῇ κτίσει : and of whom all that we read in the Acts of the Apostles, and all that primitive tradition relates to us, assures us that they fulfilled this command.

11. If we compare this hypothesis with early tradition, its first notices present us with a difficulty. Speaking of James the brother of the Lord, Eusebius (H. E. ii. 23) says,

ἀκριβέστατά γε μὴν τὰ κατ ʼ αὐτὸν ὁ Ἡγήσιππος , ἐπὶ τῆς πρώτης τῶν ἀποστόλων γενόμενος διαδοχῆς , ἐν τῷ πεμπτῷ αὐτοῦ ὑπομνήματι τοῦτον λέγων ἱστορεῖ τὸν τρόπον · Διαδέχεται δὲ τὴν ἐκκλησίαν μετὰ τῶν ἀποστόλων ὁ ἀδελφὸς τοῦ κυρίου Ἰάκωβος , ὁ ὀνομασθεὶς ὑπὸ πάντων δίκαιος ἀπὸ τῶν τοῦ κυρίου χρόνων μέχρι καὶ ἡμῶν . ἐπεὶ πολλοὶ Ἰάκωβοι ἐκαλοῦντο .

12. This passage seems most plainly to preclude all idea of James the Lord’s brother being one of the Twelve. However we understand the not very perspicuous words μετὰ τῶν ἀποστόλων ; whether we boldly suppose with Jerome, on account of the verb διαδέχεται , that they are a mistake for μετὰ τοὺς ἀποστόλους (“Suscepit ecclesiam Hierosolyma post apostolos frater domini Jacobus:” Catal. Script. Ecclesiastes 2:0 , vol. ii. p. 829), or take them as they stand, and as is most likely from comparison with St. Paul’s narrative in Galatians 2:0 , of joint superintendence with the Apostles; on either, or any view, they expressly exclude James from the number of the Apostles themselves [100] .

[100] How Lange, in his article in Herzog’s Encyclopædia, can cite these words in proof of the identity , I cannot imagine. This, besides his suppression here of the following ἐπεὶ πολλοὶ Ἰάκωβοι ἐκαλοῦντο , is one of the many tokens of unfairness which appear in that specious and clever article. I subjoin his own words: Hegesippus spricht offenbar für die Identitat , διαδέχεται δὲ τὴν ἐκκλησίαν μετὰ τῶν ἀποστόλων ὁ ἀδελφὸς τοῦ κυρίου Ἰάκωβος . Hieronnmus überseßte in seinem Katalog Salich, “nach den Aposteln;” Rusinus verbeßerte, “mit den Aposteln.” Gr übernahm die Leitung der Rirche von Jerusalem mit den Aposteln. Das heist, er Wurde nicht ausschließlicher Bischos, sondern den übrigen Aposteln als Aposteln mar die Mitwirkung der Ratur der Sache nach vorbehalten. Als Bischos wird er von den Aposteln unterschieden, obschon er Apostel ist, so wie Petrus als Sprecher von den Aposteln unterschieden wird, obschon er zu ihnen gehort, Apg . 5:29 ( ὁ Πέτρος καὶ οἱ ἀπόστολοι ). Surely any one may see through the fallacy of this last citation, as compared with the expression in Hegesippus.

13. And entirely consistent with this is the frequently misunderstood other testimony from Hegesippus, cited by Eusebius (H. E. iv. 22):

καὶ μετὰ τὸ μαρτυρῆσαι Ἰάκωβον τὸν δίκαιον ὡς καὶ ὁ κύριος ἐπὶ τῷ αὐτῷ λόγῳ , πάλιν ὁ ἐκ θείου αὐτοῦ Συμεὼν ὁ τοῦ Κλωπᾶ καθίσταται ἐπίσκοπος · ὃν προέθεντο πάντες , ὄντα ἀνεψιὸν τοῦ κυρίου δεύτερον .

The straightforward interpretation of which passage is, that “after James the Just had been martyred, as was the Lord also for the same cause, next was appointed bishop Symeon, the son of Clopas, the offspring of his (James’s, not the Lord’s, as Lange and others have most unfairly attempted to make it mean) uncle, whom all agreed in preferring, being, as he was, second of the cousins of the Lord.” That is, Joseph and Clopas (Alphæus) being brothers, and one son of Alphæus, James, being an Apostle, his next brother Symeon (Joses may have been dead ere this) being thus ἀνεψιὸς κυρίου δεύτερος , and born ἐκ τοῦ θείου αὐτοῦ ( Ἰακώβου ), succeeded James the Just in the bishopric of Jerusalem. I submit that on the hypothesis of Symeon being James’s own brother , such a sentence is simply unaccountable.

14. It is true that in this, as in so many other matters, ancient tradition is not consistent with itself. For Euseb. (H. E. ii. 1) quotes from the Hypotyposeis of Clement of Alexandria

Ἰακώβῳ τῷ δικαίῳ καὶ Ἰωάννῃ καὶ Πέτρῳ μετὰ τὴν ἀνάστασιν παρέδωκε τὴν γνῶσιν ὁ κύριος . οὗτοι τοῖς λοιποῖς ἀποστόλοις παρέδωκαν . οἱ δὲ λοιποὶ ἀπόστολοι τοῖς ἑβδομήκοντα , ὧν εἷς ἦν καὶ Βαρνάβας . δύο δὲ γεγόνασιν Ἰάκωβοι , εἷς ὁ δίκαιος , ὁ κατὰ τοῦ πτερυγίου βληθεὶς καὶ ὑπὸ κναφέως ξύλῳ πληγεὶς εἰς θάνατον , ἕτερος δὲ ὁ καρατομηθείς .

And in the same chapter he speaks of Clement as reporting that Stephen was the first martyr πρὸς τῶν κυριοκτόνων ,

τότε δῆτα καὶ Ἰάκωβον τὸν τοῦ κυρίου λεγόμενον ἀδελφόν , ὅτι δὴ καὶ οὗτος τοῦ Ἰωσὴφ ὠνόμαστο παῖς .… τοῦτον δὴ οὖν αὐτὸν Ἰάκωβον , ὃν καὶ δίκαιον ἐπίκλην οἱ πάλαι δι ʼ ἀρετῆς ἐκάλουν προτερήματα , πρῶτον ἱστοροῦσι τῆς ἐν Ἱεροσολύμοις ἐκκλησίας τὸν τῆς ἐπισκοπῆς ἐγχειρισθῆναι θρόνον .

15. Compare with this Euseb. H. E. i. 12:

ἔπειτα δὲ ὦφθαι αὐτὸν Ἰακώβῳ φησίν · εἷς δὲ καὶ οὗτος τῶν φερομένων τοῦ σωτῆρος μαθητῶν , ἀλλὰ μὴν καὶ ἀδελφῶν ἦν :

and 7:19: and the Apostolical Constitutions, ii. 55, and vi. 12, 14, where, after the enumeration of the Twelve Apostles, we have named

Ἰάκωβός τε ὁ τοῦ κυρίου ἀδελφὸς καὶ Ἱεροσολύμων ἐπίσκοπος καὶ Παῦλος ὁ τῶν ἐθνῶν διδάσκαλος .

Thus it appears, that the assumption of the identity encounters several difficulties, both from Scripture itself (even supposing the crowning one of Joh 7:5 got over), and from primitive tradition. It nevertheless became very prevalent, as soon as the setting in of asceticism suggested the hypothesis of the perpetual virginity of the Mother of our Lord. This is found from Jerome downwards; and all kinds of artificial explanations of the relationship of the brethren to our Lord have been given, to escape the inference from the simple testimony of Holy Scripture, that they were veritably children of Joseph and Mary, younger than our Lord.

16. Let us now follow the other hypothesis, that James the brother of the Lord and James the son of Alphæus were different persons . Against this, many objections have been brought, the principal of which seems to be, that thus we have so considerable a repetition of names among the family and disciples of our Lord. But this cannot on any hypothesis be got rid of. The undoubted facts of the Gospel history give us the following repetitions of names:

(A) We have under the name SIMON, (1) Simon Peter: (2) Simon καναναῖος or ζηλωτής , the Apostle: (3) Simon, the brother of the Lord, Matthew 13:55 ; Mark 6:3 ; (4) Simon, the father of Judas Iscariot, Joh 6:71 al.: (5) Simon the leper, in Bethany, Matthew 26:6 ; Mark 14:3 ; (6) Simon of Cyrene, who bore the cross after our Lord, Matthew 27:32 [101] : (7) Simon Magus: (8) Simon the tanner: besides (9) Simon the Pharisee, in whose house our Lord was anointed by the woman who was a sinner, Luke 7:40 .

[101] When, in the Gospels, and in the Evangelic statement, 1 Corinthians 11:23-25 , the sign (║) occurs in a reference, it is signified that the word occurs in the parallel place in the other Gospels, which will always be found indicated at the head of the note on the paragraph. When the sign (║) is qualified , thus, ‘║ Mk.,’ or ‘║ Mt. Mk.,’ &c., it is signified that the word occurs in the parallel place in that Gospel or Gospels, but not in the other or others .

(B) Under the name JUDAS, (1) Judas Lebbæus or Ἰακώβου , the Apostle: (2) (?) Judas, the brother of the Lord: (3) Judas Iscariot: (4) Judas Barsabas, Acts 15:22 ; if not also (5) the Apostle Thomas, the twin ( Θωμᾶς ὁ καὶ Ἰούδας , Eus. H. E. i. 13), so called by way of distinction from the two other Judases among the Twelve.

(C) Under the name MARY, (1) the Mother of our Lord: (2) the mother of James and Joses, Matthew 27:56 ; (3) Mary Magdalene: (4) Mary, the sister of Lazarus: (5) Mary, the mother of John Mark.

17. Besides these, we have (D) at least four under the name JOSEPH, viz. (1) the reputed father of our Lord, (2) Joseph of Arimathea: (3) Joseph Barnabas, Acts 4:36 ; (4) Joseph Barsabas, Acts 1:23 ; if not two more, a brother of our Lord, Matthew 13:55 , and according to some MSS., a son of Mary and brother of James, Matthew 27:56 .

This being so, it really is somewhat out of place to cry out upon the supposed multiplication of persons bearing the same name in the N. T.

18. The improbability of there being in each family, that of Joseph and that of Alphæus (Clopas), two sets of four brothers bearing the same names, is created by assuming the supplement of Ἰούδας Ἰακώβου Luk 6:16 and Acts 1:13 , to be ἀδελφός , which, to say the least, is not necessary. The sons of Alphæus (except Levi (Matthew) who appears to have been the son of another Alphæus, but has been most unaccountably omitted from all consideration by those who object to the multiplication of those bearing the same name) are but two, James the less the Apostle, and Joses. We have not the least trace in Scripture, or even in tradition rightly understood, indicating that Simon Zelotes was a son of Alphæus. What is the improbability, in two brethren of our Lord bearing the same names as two of their cousins? Cannot almost every widely-spread family even among ourselves, where names are not so frequently repeated, furnish examples of the same and like coincidences?

19. No safe objection can be brought against the present hypothesis from St. Paul’s ἕτερον δὲ τῶν ἀποστόλων οὐκ εἶδον εἰ μὴ Ἰάκωβον τὸν ἀδελφὸν τοῦ κυρίου , Galatians 1:19 . For (1) the usage of the word ἀπόστολος by St. Paul is not confined to the Twelve, and Christian antiquity recognized in Paul himself and this very James, two supplementary Apostles besides the Twelve [102] : and (2) it has been shewn by Fritzsche, Neander, and Winer, and must be evident to any one accustomed to the usage of εἰ μή in the N. T., that it need not necessarily qualify ἕτερον here, but may just as well refer to the whole preceding clause [103] .

[102] See the citation from the Apostolic Constt. above, par. 15.

[103] If we want an example of even a wider use of εἰ μή , we have it in the same chapter, Galatians 1:7 .

20. The objection of Lange (Herzog’s Encyclop. ut supra) that it is impossible to imagine the growth of an apocryphal Apostleship, by the side of that founded by our Lord, entirely vanishes under a right view of the circumstances of the case. There would be no possibility, on Lange’s postulates, of including St. Paul himself among the Apostles. There was nothing in the divine proceeding towards him, which indicated that he was to bear that name: still less was there any thing designating Barnabas as another Apostle, properly so called. These two, on account of their importance and usefulness in the apostolic work, were received among the Apostles as of apostolic dignity. Why may the same not have been the case, with a person so universally noted for holiness and justice as James the brother of the Lord?

21. Again, Lange (ut supra) objects, that “real Apostles thus altogether vanish from the field of action, and are superseded by other Apostles introduced afterwards.” I would simply ask, what can be a more accurate description, than these words furnish, of the character of the history of the book which is entitled the Acts of the Apostles? Is it not, in the main, the record of the journeyings and acts of a later introduced Apostle, before whom the work of the other Apostles is cast into the shade? Besides, what do we know of the actions of any of the Apostles, except (taking even Lange’s hypothesis) of Peter, James, John, and James the son of Alphæus? Where shall we seek any record of the doings of St. Matthew, St. Thomas, St. Philip, St. Jude, St. Bartholomew, St. Andrew, St. Simon, St. Matthias? In Acts 15:22 , an Ἰούδας appears as an ἀνὴρ ἡγούμενος ἐν τοῖς ἀδελφοῖς : but he is not St. Jude the Apostle. In Acts 8:0 we hear much of the missionary work of Φίλιππος : but he is not St. Philip the Apostle.

22. It seems to me from the above considerations, far the more probable inference from Scriptural and traditional data, that James the brother of the Lord, the Bishop of Jerusalem, the presumed Author of our Epistle, was distinct from James the son of Alphæus, one of the Twelve Apostles. And assuming this, I shall now gather up the notices which we find of this remarkable person.

23. It is certain, from John 7:3-5 , that he was not a believer in the Messiahship of Jesus at the period of His ministry there indicated. And from our Lord, when on the Cross, commending His mother to the care of St. John, the son of Zebedee, and probably His cousin after the flesh, we may infer that neither then did His brethren believe on Him. It would appear however, from our finding them expressly mentioned in Acts 1:13 , as assembled in the upper room with the Apostles and with the Mother of our Lord, and the believing women, that they were then believers, having probably been, from a half-persuaded and wavering faith, fixed, by the great events of the Passion and Resurrection, in a conviction of the divine mission of Jesus.

24. And of these the Lord’s brethren, let us now fix our attention on JAMES, who seems, from his being placed first in the enumeration, Mat 13:55 and [104] Mark, to have been the eldest among them.

[104] When, in the Gospels, and in the Evangelic statement, 1 Corinthians 11:23-25 , the sign (║) occurs in a reference, it is signified that the word occurs in the parallel place in the other Gospels, which will always be found indicated at the head of the note on the paragraph. When the sign (║) is qualified , thus, ‘║ Mk.,’ or ‘║ Mt. Mk.,’ &c., it is signified that the word occurs in the parallel place in that Gospel or Gospels, but not in the other or others .

25. The character which we have of him, as a just and holy man, must in all probability be dated from before his conversion. And those who believe him to have been not by adoption only, but by actual birth a son of our Lord’s parents, will trace in the appellation of him as δίκαιος , the character of his father ( Mat 1:19 ), and the humble faith and obedience of his mother ( Luk 1:38 ). That the members of such a family should have grown up just and holy men, is the result which might be hoped from the teaching of such parents, and above all from the presence ever among them of the spotless and bright example of Him, of whom his cousin according to the flesh, yet not knowing Him to be the Messiah, could say, “I have need to be baptized of Thee” ( Mat 3:14 ).

26. The absence in the Holy Family of that pseudo-asceticism which has so much confused the traditions respecting them, is strikingly proved by the notice, furnished by St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 9:5 , that “the brethren of the Lord” were married men. At the same time there can be no doubt from the general character of St. James’s Epistle, and from the notices of tradition, confirmed as they are by the narrative in the Acts, ch. Acts 21:17 ff., and by Galatians 2:11 ff., that he was in other matters a strong ascetic, and a rigid observer of the ceremonial Jewish customs. In the testimony of Hegesippus, quoted by Eus. H. E. ii. 23, we read, οὗτος ἐκ κοιλίας μητρὸς αὐτοῦ ἅγιος ἦν . οἶνον καὶ σίκερα οὐκ ἔπιεν , οὐδὲ ἔμψυχον ἔφαγε . ξυρὸν ἐπὶ τὴν κεφαλὴν αὐτοῦ οὐκ ἀνέβη , ἔλαιον οὐκ ἠλείψατο , καὶ βαλανείῳ οὐκ ἐχρήσατο . τούτῳ μόνῳ ἐξῆν εἰς τὰ ἅγια εἰσιέναι . οὐδὲ γὰρ ἐρεοῦν ἐφόρει ἀλλὰ σινδόνας . καὶ μόνος εἰσήρχετο εἰς τὸν ναόν , ηὑρίσκετὸ τε κείμενος ἐπὶ τοῖς γόνασι καὶ αἰτούμενος ὑπὲρ τοῦ λαοῦ ἄφεσιν , ὡς ἀπεσκληκέναι τὰ γόνατα αὐτοῦ δίκην καμήλου , διὰ τὸ ἀεὶ κάμπτειν ἐπὶ γόνυ προσκυνοῦντα τῷ θεῷ καὶ αἰτεῖσθαι ἄφεσιν τῷ λαῷ διὰ γέτοι τὴν ὑπερβολὴν τῆς δικαιοσύνης αὐτοῦ ἐκαλεῖτο δίκαιος καὶ ὠβλίας [105] . And without taking all this as literal fact, it at least shews us the character which he bore, and the estimation in which he was held.

[105] On the interpretation of this word, which is quite uncertain, see Suicer, sub voce, vol. ii. p. 1593.

27. That such a person, when converted to the faith of Jesus, should have very soon been placed in high dignity in the Jerusalem church, is not to be wondered at. The very fact of that church being in some measure a continuation of the apostolic company, would, in the absence of Him who had been its centre beforetime, naturally incline their thoughts towards one who was the most eminent of His nearest relatives according to the flesh: and the strong Judaistic tendencies of that church would naturally group it around one who was so zealous a fautor of the Law.

28. This his pre-eminence seems to have been fully established as early as the imprisonment of St. Peter, Acts 12:0 [106] : i. e. about A.D. 44: which would allow ample time for the reasonable growth in estimation and authority of one whose career as a disciple did not begin till the Ascension of our Lord, i. e. 14 years before [107] .

[106] Thus for we can hardly suppose it to have been a sudden thing, we should have it already subsisting during the lifetime of the greater James, the son of Zebedee: one additional argument for distinguishing this James from James the less, the son of Alphæus.

[107] For these dates, see the Chronological Table in the Prolegg. to the Acts, Vol. II. It has been objected, that it would be unlikely that one who at the Ascension was not a believer, should so soon after be found in the dignity of an Apostle. But the objectors forget, that less than half the time sufficed to raise one, who long after the Ascension was “a persecutor and injurious,” to the same dignity.

29. From this time onward, James is introduced, and simply by this name, as the president, or bishop, of the church at Jerusalem. In the apostolic council in Acts 15:0 (A.D. 50), we find him speaking last, after the rest had done, and delivering, with his ἐγὼ κρίνω ( Act 15:19 ), that opinion, on which the act of the assembly was grounded. On St. Paul reaching Jerusalem in Acts 21:0 (A.D. 58), we find him, on the day after his arrival, entering in πρὸς Ἰάκωβον : and it is added πάντες τε παρεγένοντο οἱ πρεσβύτεροι : shewing that the visit was a formal one, to a man in authority.

30. Thenceforward we have no more mention of James in the Acts. In Galatians 1:19 , St. Paul relates, that at his first visit to Jerusalem after his conversion he saw Ἰάκωβον τὸν ἀδελφὸν τοῦ κυρίου : but without any mark, unless the title ἀπόστολος , there given him, is to be taken as such, that he had then the pre-eminence which he afterwards enjoyed. The date of this visit I have set down elsewhere as A.D. 40 [108] .

[108] See the Chronological Table, ut supra.

31. In the same apologetic narrative in the Epistle to the Galatians, St. Paul recounts the events, as far as they were germane to his purpose, of the apostolic council in Acts 15:0 . And here we find James ranked with Cephas and John, as στύλοι of the church. At some shortly subsequent time, probably in the end of A.D. 50 or the beginning of 51, we find, from the same narrative of St. Paul, that τινὲς ἀπὸ Ἰακώβου came down to Antioch, of whose Judaistic strictness Peter being afraid, prevaricated, and shrunk back from asserting his Christian liberty. This speaks for the influence of James, as it does also for its tendency.

32. At the time when we lose sight of James in the Acts of the Apostles, he would be, supposing him to have been next in the Holy Family to our Blessed Lord, and proceeding on the necessarily somewhat uncertain [109] inference deducible from the plain sense of Matthew 1:25 , about sixty years of age.

[109] Because there were also sisters of our Lord, and more than two, or the word πᾶσαι could not have been used of them, Matthew 13:55 .

33. From this time we are left to seek his history in tradition. We possess an account in Josephus of his character and martyrdom. In Antt. xx. 9. 1, we read, ὁ Ἄνανος , νομίσας ἔχειν καιρὸν ἐπιτήδειον , διὰ τὸ τεθνᾶναι τὸν Φῆστον , Ἀλβῖνον δὲ ἔτι κατὰ τὴν ὁδὸν ὑπάρχειν , καθίζει συνέδριον κριτῶν · καὶ παραγαγὼν εἰς αὐτὸ τὸν ἀδελφὸν τοῦ Ἰησοῦ του λεγομένου χριστοῦ , Ἰάκωβος ὄνομα αὐτῷ , καί τινας ἑτέρους , ὡς παρανομησάντων κατηγορίαν ποιησάμενος , παρέδωκε λευσθησομένους .

34. Further particulars of his death are given us from Hegesippus, by Eusebius, ut supra, H. E. ii. 23: but they do not seem to tally with the above account in Josephus. According to Hegesippus, whose narrative is full of strange expressions, and savours largely of the fabulous, some of the seven sects of the people (see Eus. H. E. iv. 22) asked James, τίς ἡ θύρα τοῦ Ἰησοῦ [110] . And by his preaching to them Jesus as the Christ, so many of them believed on Him, that πολλῶν καὶ τῶν ἀρχόντων πιστευόντων , ἦν θόρυβος τῶν Ἰουδαίων κ . γραμματέων κ . Φαρισαίων λεγόντων ὅτι κινδυνεύει πᾶς ὁ λαὸς Ἰησοῦν τὸν χριστὸν προσδοκᾷν . On this they invited James to deter the people from being thus deceived, standing on the πτερύγιον τοῦ ἱεροῦ at the Passover, that he might be seen and heard by all. But, the story proceeds, when he was set there, and appealed to by them to undeceive the people, he ἀπεκρίνατο φωνῇ μεγάλῃ Τί με ἐπερωτᾶτε περὶ Ἰησοῦ τοῦ υἱοῦ τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ; καὶ αὐτὸς κάθηται ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ ἐκ δεξιῶν τῆς μεγάλης δυνάμεως , καὶ μέλλει ἔρχεσθαι ἐπὶ τῶν νεφελῶν τοῦ οὐρανοῦ . On this, many were confirmed in their belief, and glorified God for his testimony, and cried Hosanna to the son of David. Whereat the Scribes and Pharisees said to one another, κακῶς ἐποιήσαμεν τοιαύτην μαρτυρίαν παρασχόντες τῷ Ἰησοῦ · ἀλλὰ ἀναβάντες καταβάλωμεν αὐτόν , ἵνα φοβηθέντες μὴ πιστεύσωσιν αὐτῷ . καὶ ἔκραξαν λέγοντες Ὦ ὦ , καὶ ὁ δίκαιος ἐπλανήθη . So they went up, and cast him down: and said to one another, λιθάσωμεν Ἰάκωβον τὸν δίκαιον . καὶ ἤρξαντο λιθάζειν αὐτόν , ἐπεὶ καταβληθεὶς οὐκ ἀπέθανεν , ἀλλὰ στραφεὶς ἔθηκε τὰ γόνατα λέγων Παρακαλῶ κύριε θεὲ πάτερ ἀφὲς αὐτοῖς , οὐ γὰρ οἴδασι τί ποιοῦσιν . And while they were stoning him, a priest, one of the sons of Rechab, cried out, τὶ ποιεῖτε ; εὔχεται ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν ὁ δίκαιος . καὶ λαβών τις ἀπ ʼ αὐτῶν εἷς τῶν κναφέων τὸ ξύλον ἐν ᾧ ἀπεπίεζε τὰ ἱμάτια , ἤνεγκε κατὰ τῆς κεφαλῆς τοῦ δικαίου . καὶ οὕτως ἐμαρτύρησεν . καὶ ἔθαψαν αὐτὸν ἐν τῷ τόπῳ , καὶ ἔτι αὐτοῦ ἡ στήλη μένει παρὰ τῷ ναῷ .

[110] On this expression, Valesius says, “Ostium hoc loco est introductio seu institutio atque initiatio. Ostium igitur Christi nihil est aliud quam fides in Deum Patrem et Filium et Spiritum Sanctum:” &c. But this seems doubtful, and the expression enigmatical.

35. This last sentence seems wholly inexplicable, considering that long before it was written both city and temple were destroyed. And the more so, as Hegesippus proceeds to say, that immediately upon St. James’s martyrdom, Vespasian formed the siege of the city. He adds, οὕτω δὲ ἄρα θαυμάσιός τις ἦν , καὶ παρὰ τοῖς ἄλλοις ἅπασιν ἐπὶ δικαιοσύνῃ βεβόητο ὁ Ἰάκωβος , ὡς καὶ τοὺς Ἰουδαίων ἔμφρονας δοξάζειν ταύτην εἶναι τὴν αἰτίαν τῆς παραχρῆμα μετὰ ̣ τὸ μαρτύριον αὐτοῦ πολιορκίας τῆς Ἱερουσαλήμ , ἣν δι ʼ οὐδὲν ἕτερον αὐτοῖς συμβῆναι , ἢ διὰ τὸ κατ ʼ αὐτοῦ τολμηθὲν ἄγος . And he quotes from Josephus, ταῦτα δὲ συμβέβηκεν Ἰουδαίοις κατ ʼ ἐκδίκησιν Ἰακώβου τοῦ δικαίου , ὃς ἦν ἀδελφὸς Ἰησοῦ τοῦ λεγομένου χριστοῦ · ἐπειδήπερ δικαιότατου αὐτὸν οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι ἀπέκτειναν : but no such passage as this latter is now found in Josephus.

36. The character of St. James is sufficiently indicated in the foregoing notices. He appears to have been a strong observer of the law, moral and ceremonial: and though willing to recognize the hand of God in the Gentile ministry of Paul and Barnabas, to have remained himself attached to the purely Judaistic form of Christianity. “Had not,” observes Schaff (Kirchengesch. i. p. 314), “a Peter, and above all a Paul, arisen as supplementary to James, Christianity would perhaps never have become entirely emancipated from the veil of Judaism and asserted its own independence. Still there was a necessity for the ministry of James. If any could win over the ancient covenant people, it was he. It pleased God to set so high an example of O. T. piety in its purest form among the Jews, to make conversion to the gospel, even at the eleventh hour, as easy as possible for them. But when they would not listen to the voice of this last messenger of peace, then was the measure of the divine patience exhausted, and the fearful and long-threatened judgment broke forth. And thus was the mission of James fulfilled. He was not to outlive the destruction of the holy city and the temple. According to Hegesippus, he was martyred in the year before that event, viz. A.D. 69.”

37. According to the above hypothetical calculation (par. 32), he would be, at the date of his martyrdom, about 71 years of age. The various particulars of his connexion with our present Epistle will be found in the following sections.

38. The literature of the subject treated in this section is very extensive. I may refer the reader to the Einleitungen of De Wette, Huther, and Wiesinger: to Lange’s art. in Herzog’s Encyclopädie: to Gieseler’s Kirchengeschichte, i. p. 89 ff.: to Schaff’s do. vol. i. §§ 79, 80: to Neander’s Pflanzung u. Leitung, p. 553 ff. and note: to Schneckenburger, Annotatio ad Epist. Jacobi, p. 144: and Davidson, Introd. to N. T., vol. iii. p. 302 ff.



1. It is evident from the contents of the Epistle, that it was written for Christian readers. The Writer calls himself κυρίου Ἰησοῦ χριστοῦ δοῦλος , and addresses the readers throughout as his ἀδελφοί . In ch. Jam 1:18 he says that God has begotten us ( ἡμᾶς ) by the word of truth: in ch. Jam 2:1 he addresses them as having the faith of Jesus Christ the Lord of glory: in id. James 2:7 , he speaks of the καλὸν ὄνομα by which they were called: and in ch. James 5:7 , he exhorts them to patience on the ground that the coming of the Lord was near. Besides which, the whole passage, ch. James 2:14 , proceeds on the manifest supposition that writer and readers had one and the same faith.

2. At the same time, the address of the Epistle, ταῖς δώδεκα φυλαῖς ταῖς ἐν τῇ διασπορᾷ , which will not bear a spiritual meaning, but only the strictly national one, quite forbids us from supposing that Christians in general were in the Writer’s view. Believing Jews, and they only, were the recipients of the Epistle. Not the words of the address, but the circumstances of the case, and the language of the Epistle, exclude those who did not believe.

3. This Judaistic direction of the letter is evident from ch. James 2:2 , where συναγωγή is the place of assembly: from James 2:19 , where monotheism is brought forward as the central point of faith: from ch. James 5:12 , where, in the prohibition of swearing, the formulæ common among the Jews are introduced: from James 5:14 , where anointing with oil is mentioned. And not only so, but all the ethical errors which St. James combats, are of that kind which may be referred to carnal Judaism as their root.

4. Huther, from whom I have taken the foregoing paragraphs of this section, remarks, that the argument against faith alone without works is no objection to the last-mentioned view, but is rather in refutation of this same Jewish error, which was but the successor of the Pharisaical confidence in the fact of possessing the law, without a holy life: see Romans 2:17 ff.: and compare Justin Mart. Dial. § 141, p. 231, who says of the Jews, οἱ λέγουσιν ὅτι κἂν ἁμαρτωλοὶ ὦσι , θεὸν δὲ γινώσκωσιν , οὐ μὴ λογίσηται αὐτοῖς ἁμαρτίαν . There is indeed no trace in the Epistle of an anxious and scrupulous observance of the Mosaic ritual on the part of the readers: but this may be because in the main on this point the Writer and his readers were agreed. And we do find in it traces of an erroneous estimate of the value of mere θρησκεία (ch. James 1:22 ff.): and a trace of fanatical zeal venting itself by ὀργή .

5. The situation of these Judæo-Christian churches or congregations, as discernible in the Epistle, was this. They were tried by manifold trials, ch. James 1:2 . We are hardly justified in assuming that they were entirely made up of poor, on account of ch. James 2:6-7 ; indeed the former verses of that chapter seem to shew, that rich men were also found among them. However, this probably was so for the most part, and they were oppressed and dragged before the judgment-seats by the rich, which trials they did not bear with that patience and humility which might have been expected of them as Christians, nor did they in faith seek wisdom from God concerning them: but regarded Him as their tempter, and their lowliness as shame, paying carnal court to the rich, and despising the poor.

6. As might have been expected, such worldliness of spirit gave rise to strifes and dissensions among them, and to a neglect of self-preservation from the evil in the world, imagining that their Christian faith would suffice to save them, without a holy life.

7. There is some little difficulty in assigning a proper place to the rich men who are addressed in ch. James 5:1 ff. They can hardly have been altogether out of the pale of the Christian body, or the denunciations would never have reached them at all: but it is fair to suppose that they were unworthy professing members of the churches.

8. It must be owned that the general state of the churches addressed, as indicated by this Epistle, is not such as any Christian teacher could look on with satisfaction. And it is extremely interesting to enquire, how far this unsatisfactory state furnishes us with any clue to the date of our Epistle: an enquiry which we shall follow out in our next section.

9. The designation ἐν τῇ διασπορᾷ need not necessarily limit the readers to the Jewish churches out of Palestine: but the greater circumference may include the lesser: the διασπορά may be vaguely used, regarding Jerusalem as the centre; and as in Acts 8:1 , where we read πάντες τε διεσπάρησαν κατὰ τὰς χώρας τῆς Ἰουδαίας καὶ Σαμαρείας , the exception being the Apostles, who remained in Jerusalem, may comprehend Palestine itself.



1. As regards the place of writing, if the general opinion as to the author be assumed, there can be but one view. His fixed residence, and centre of influence, was JERUSALEM. There we find him, at every date in the apostolic period. If he wrote the Epistle, it was written from the holy city.

2. And with this the character of the Epistle very well agrees. Most of the Judæo-Christians addressed in it would be in the habit of coming up to Jerusalem from time to time to the feasts. There St. James, though at a distance, might become well acquainted with their state and temptations, and exercise superintendence over them.

3. It has been pointed out also [111] , that the physical notices inserted in the Epistle are very suitable to this supposition. The Writer appears to have written not far from the sea (ch. James 1:6 ; Jam 3:4 ): it was a land blessed with figs, oil, and wine ( Jam 3:12 ). Wide as these notices may be, we have others which seem to come nearer to Palestine. Salt and bitter springs are familiar to him ( Jam 3:11-12 ): the land was exposed to drought, and was under anxiety for fear of failure of crops for want of rain ( Jam 5:17-18 ): it was burnt up quickly by a hot wind ( καύσων , Jam 1:11 ), which is a name not only belonging to West Asia, but especially known in Palestine. “Another phænomenon,” says Hug, “which was found where the Writer was, decides for that locality: it is, the former and latter rain, which he names πρώϊμος and ὄψιμος , ch. James 5:7 , as they were known in Palestine.”

[111] By Hug, Einleitung, edn. 4, p. 438 f.

4. With regard to the date of the Epistle, opinions are more divided. That it was written before the destruction of Jerusalem, will follow as matter of course from what has already been said. But there are two other termini, with reference to which it is important that its place should be assigned. These are (1) the publication of the doctrine of St. Paul respecting justification by faith only: and (2) the Apostolic council in Jerusalem of Acts 15:0 .

5. A superficial view will suggest, that it cannot be till after the doctrine of justification by faith had been spread abroad, that ch. James 2:14 ff. can have been written. And this has been held even by some, whose treatment of the Epistle has been far from superficial [112] . But I believe that a thorough and unbiassed weighing of probabilities will lead us to an opposite conclusion. It seems most improbable that, supposing ch. James 2:14 ff. to have been written after St. Paul’s teaching on the point was known, St. James should have made no allusion either to St. Paul rightly understood, or to St. Paul wrongly understood. Surely such a method of proceeding, considering what strong words he uses, would be, to say the least, very ill-judged, or very careless: the former, if he only wished to prevent an erroneous conception of the great Apostle’s doctrine, the latter, if he wished to put himself into direct antagonism with it.

[112] e. g. Wiesinger.

6. It is much more probable, that all which St. James says respecting works and faith has respect to a former and different state and period of the controversy: when, as was explained above [113] , the Jewish Pharisaic notions were being carried into the adopted belief in Christianity, and the danger was not, as afterwards, of a Jewish law-righteousness being set up, antagonistic to the righteousness which is by the faith of Christ, but of a Jewish reliance on exclusive purity of faith superseding the necessity of a holy life, which is inseparably bound up with any worthy holding of the Christian faith.

[113] § ii. 4.

7. The objection brought against this view is, that the examples adduced by St. James are identical with those which we find in the Epistles of St. Paul, and even in that to the Hebrews: and that they presuppose acquaintance with those writings. But we may well answer, what right have we to make this, any more than the converse assumption? Or rather, for I do not believe the converse to be any more probable, why should not the occurrence of these common examples have been due in both cases to their having been the ordinary ones cited on the subject? What more certain, than that Abraham, the father of the faithful, would be cited in any dispute on the validity of faith? What more probable than that Rahab, a Canaanite, and a woman of loose life, who became sharer of the security of God’s people simply because she believed God’s threatenings, should be exalted into an instance on the one hand that even a contact with Israel’s faith sufficed to save, and that the Apostle on the other should shew that such faith was not mere assent, but fruitful in practical consequences?

8. Again it is urged that, owing to several expressions and passages in our Epistle, we are obliged to believe that St. James had read and used the Epistles to the Romans and Galatians. Wiesinger says that any unbiassed reader will see in ch. Jam 1:3 and James 4:1 ; James 4:12 , allusions to Romans 5:3 ; Romans 6:13 ; Romans 7:23 ; Romans 8:7 ; Romans 14:4 . Of these certainly the first is a close resemblance: but that in the others is faint, and the connecting of them together is quite fanciful. And even where close resemblance exists, if the nature of the expressions be considered, we shall see how little ground there is for ascribing to the one writer any necessary knowledge of the other. The expressions are, τὸ δοκίμιον ὑμῶν τῆς πίστεως κατεργάζεται ὑπομονήν , James 1:3 ; ἡ θλῖψις ὑπομονὴν κατεργάζεται , Romans 5:3 . Now what could be more likely than that a πιστὸς λόγος like this, tending to console the primitive believers under afflictions which were coeval with their first profession of the Gospel, should have been a common-place in the mouths of their teachers? And accordingly we find a portion of St. James’s expression, viz. τὸ δοκίμιον ὑμῶν τῆς πίστεως , again occurring in 1 Peter 1:7 ; a circumstance which may or may not indicate an acquaintance with the contents of our Epistle.

9. A similar inference has been drawn from the use by St. James of such terms as δικαιοῦσθαι , ἐκ πίστεως , ἐξ ἔργων : which, it is urged, no N. T. writer except St. Paul, or, in the case of the verb, St. Luke under influence of St. Paul, has used. But here again it is manifest that the inference will not hold. The subject, as argued by St. Paul, was no new one, but had long been in the thoughts and disputes of the primitive believers [114] .

[114] As a proof of this, see Galatians 2:16 , a speech which was made certainly a very short time after the council in A.D. 50, and in consequence of a message from James.

10. With regard to the other question, as to whether our Epistle must be dated before or after the council in Acts 15:0 , one consideration is, to my mind, decisive. We have no mention in it of any controversy respecting the ceremonial observance of the Jewish law, nor any allusion to the duties of the Judæo-Christian believers in this respect. Now this certainly could not have been, after the dispute of Acts 15:1 ff. If we compare what St. Paul relates in Galatians 2:11 ff. (see the last note) of the influence of certain from James, and the narrative of Acts 21:18-25 , with the entire absence in this Epistle of all notice of the subjects in question, we must, I think, determine that, at the time of writing the Epistle, no such question had arisen. The obligation of observing the Jewish ceremonial law was as yet confessed among Jewish Christians, and therefore needed no enforcing.

11. But here again various objections are brought against assigning so early a date to our Epistle as before the Jerusalem council, principally derived from the supposed difficulty of imagining so much development at that time in the Judæo-Christian congregations. We find, it is alleged, πρεσβύτεροι of an ἐκκλησία , which is not the mere Jewish synagogue used in common by both, but a regularly organized congregation.

12. Now we may fairly say, that this objection is unfounded. The Christian ἐκκλησία is mentioned by our Lord Himself in Matthew 18:17 , and was so easy and matter-of-course a successor of the synagogue, that it would be sure to be established, wherever there was a Christian community. We find that the different varieties of Jews had their separate synagogues, Acts 6:9 ; and the establishment of a separate organization and place of worship would be the obvious and immediate consequence of the recognition of Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah. In such a congregation, πρεσβύτεροι would be a matter of course.

13. It is also objected, that in the Epistle the readers are treated as mature in the belief and doctrines of the Gospel: that it exhorts, but does not teach [115] . Witness, it is said, the allusions to their knowledge, and exhortations to perfection, ch. James 1:3 ; James 3:1 ; James 4:1 . But in those passages there is nothing which might not well apply to the primitive Jewish believers: nothing which, from their knowledge of the O. T., and of the moral teaching of our Lord, they might not well have been aware of.

[115] Wiesinger, p. 38.

14. Yet again it is said, that the character of the faults here stigmatized in the Christian congregations is such as to require a considerable period for their development [116] : that they are those which arise from relaxation of the moral energy with which we must suppose the first Jewish converts to have received the Gospel. In answer to this, we may point to the length of time which may well be allowed as having elapsed between the first Pentecost sermon and the time of writing the Epistle, and to the rapidity of the dissemination of practical error, and the progress of moral deterioration, when once set in. We may also remind the reader of the state of the Jewish church and the heathen world around, as shewing that it must not be supposed that all these evils sprung up within the Christian communities themselves: rather we may say, that the seed fell on soil in which these thorns were already sown, and that, even conceding the position above assumed, § i. 1, a very short time, less than the 20 years which elapsed between the first Pentecost and the Jerusalem council, would have sufficed for the growth of any such errors as we find stigmatized in this Epistle.

[116] Wiesinger, ut supra.

15. “Where,” asks Wiesinger, “shall we look for the Judæo-Christian churches out of Palestine, which will satisfy the postulates of the Epistle?” I answer, in the notice of Acts 2:5-11 , in following out which, we must believe that Christian churches of the dispersion were very widely founded at a date immediately following the great outpouring of the Spirit. Such a persuasion does not compel us to believe that our Epistle was addressed principally to the church at Antioch, or to those in Syria and Cilicia, but leaves the address of it in all the extent of its own words, ταῖς δώδεκα φυλαῖς ταῖς ἐν τῇ διασπορᾷ .

16. The notice of Acts 11:19 ff., will amply provide for such Christian congregations, consisting mainly or entirely of Jewish believers, as the purposes of this Epistle require. And that notice may surely be regarded as a record of that taking place with increased energy nearer home, which must have been long going on far and wide owing to the agency of the first Pentecostal believers. We find traces of this in the first missionary journey of Paul and Barnabas, where in several cases we have, besides the new converts made, an implied background of μαθηταί , naturally consisting mainly of Jews; and it appears to have been at and by this visit chiefly that the enmity of the Jews every where against the Gentile converts, and against the Gospel as admitting them, was first stirred up.

17. These things being considered, I cannot agree with Wiesinger and Schmid in placing our Epistle late in the first age of the church; but should, with the majority of recent Commentators, and historians, including Schneckenburger, Theile, Neander, Thiersch, Hofmann, and Schaff, place it before, perhaps not long before, the Jerusalem council: somewhere, it may be, about the year 45 A.D.



1. The object of the Epistle has been already partially indicated, in treating of its readers. It was ethical, rather than didactic. They had fallen into many faults incident to their character and position. Their outward trials were not producing in them that confirmation of faith, and that stedfastness, for which they were sent, but they were deteriorating, instead of improving, under them. St. James therefore wrote this hortatory and minatory Epistle, to bring them to a sense of their Christian state under the Father of wisdom and the Lord of glory, subjects as they were of the perfect law of liberty, new-begotten by the divine word, married unto Christ, and waiting in patience for His advent to judgment.

2. The letter is full of earnestness, plain speaking, holy severity. The brother of Him who opened His teaching with the Sermon on the Mount, seems to have deeply imbibed the words and maxims of it, as the law of Christian morals. The characteristic of his readers was the lack of living faith: the falling asunder, as it has been well called [117] , of knowledge and action, of head and heart. And no portion of the divine teaching could be better calculated to sound the depths of the treacherous and disloyal heart, than this first exposition by our Lord, who knew the heart, of the difference between the old law, in its externality, and the searching spiritual law of the gospel [118] .

[117] Wiesinger, Einleitung, p. 42.

[118] The connexion between our Epistle and the Sermon on the Mount has often been noticed: and the principal parallels will be found pointed out in the reff. and commentary. I subjoin a list of them: ch. James 1:2 , Matthew 5:10-12 ; ch. James 1:4 , Matthew 5:48 ; ch. Jam 1:5 and James 5:15 , Matthew 7:7 ff.; ch. James 1:9 , Matthew 5:3 ; ch. James 1:20 , Matthew 5:22 ; ch. James 2:13 , Matthew 6:14-15 ; Matthew 5:7 ; ch. James 2:14 ff, Matthew 7:21 ff.; ch. James 3:17-18 , Matthew 5:9 ; ch. James 4:4 , Matthew 6:24 ; ch. James 4:10 , Matthew 5:3-4 ; ch. James 4:11 , Matthew 7:1 f.; ch. James 5:2 , Matthew 6:19 ; ch. James 5:10 , Matthew 5:12 ; ch. James 5:12 , Matthew 5:33 ff.; and from other discourses of our Lord, ch. James 1:14 , Matthew 15:19 ; ch. James 4:12 , Matthew 10:28 . Compare also the places where the rich are denounced with Luke 6:24 ff.

3. The main theme of the Epistle may be described as being the ἀνὴρ τέλειος , in the perfection of the Christian life: the ποιητὴς τοῦ νόμου τελείου : and his state and duties are described and enforced, not in the abstract, but in a multitude of living connexions and circumstances of actual life, as might suit the temptations and necessities of the readers.

4. St. James begins by a reference to their πειρασμοί , exhorting them to consider them matter of joy, as sent for the trial of their faith and accomplishment of their perfection, which must be carried on in faith, and prayer to God for wisdom, without doubt and wavering. The worldly rich are in fact not the happy, but the subject of God’s judgment: the humble and enduring is he to whom the crown of life is promised (ch. Jam 1:1-12 ).

5. Then he comes to treat of a πειράζεσθαι which is not from God, but from their own lusts. God on the contrary is the Author of every good and perfect gift, as especially of their new birth by the word of His truth. The inference from this is that, seeing they have their evil from themselves, but their good from Him, they should be eager to hear, but slow to speak and slow to wrath, receiving the word in meekness, being thoroughly penetrated with its influence, in deed and word, not paying to God the vain θρησκεία of outward conformity only, but that of acts of holy charity and a spotless life.

6. The second chapter introduces the mention of their special faults: and as intimately connected with ch. James 1:27 , first that of respect of persons in regard of worldly wealth ( Jam 2:1-13 ); and then that of supposing a bare assensive faith sufficient for salvation without its living fruits in a holy life ( Jam 2:14-26 ). Next, the exhortation of ch. James 1:19 , “slow to speak, slow to wrath,” is again taken up, and in ch. James 3:1-18 , these two particulars are treated, in the duties of curbing the tongue and the contentious temper.

7. This last leads naturally on in ch. Jam 4:1-12 to the detection of the real source of all contention and strife, viz. in their lusts, inflamed by the solicitations of the devil. These solicitations they are to resist, by penitence before God, and by curbing their proud and uncharitable judgments. Then he turns ( Jam 4:13 to Jam 5:6 ) to those who live in their pride and worldliness, in assumed independence on God, and severely reproves the rich for their oppression and defrauding of the poor, warning them of a day of retribution at hand.

8. Then, after an earnest exhortation to patient endurance (ch. Jam 5:7-11 ) and to abstain from words of hasty profanity ( Jam 5:12 ), he takes occasion in prescribing to them what to do in adversity, prosperity, and sickness, and as to mutual confession of sin, to extol the efficacy of prayer ( Jam 5:13-18 ), and ends with pronouncing the blessedness of turning a sinner from the error of his way.

9. The character of the Epistle is thus a mixed one: consolatory and hortatory for the believing brethren; earnest, minatory, and polemical, against those who disgraced their Christian profession by practical error. Even in ch. James 2:14-26 , where alone the Writer seems to be combating doctrinal error, all his contention is rather in the realm of practice: he is more anxious to shew that justification cannot be brought about by a kind of faith which is destitute of the practical fruits of a Christian life, than to trace the ultimate ground , theologically speaking, of justification in the sight of God.

10. As regards the style and diction of our Epistle, Huther has well described it as being “not only fresh and vivid, the immediate outflowing of a deep and earnest spirit, but at the same time sententious, and rich in graphic figure. Gnome follows after gnome, and the discourse hastens from one similitude to another: so that the diction often passes into the poetical, and in some parts is like that of the O. T. prophets. We do not find logical connexion, like that in St. Paul: but the thoughts arrange themselves in single groups, which are strongly marked off from one another. We every where see that the author has his object clearly in sight, and puts it forth with graphic concreteness. Strong feelings, as Kern remarks, produce strong diction: and the style acquires emphasis and majesty by the climax of thoughts and words ever regularly and rhetorically arrived at, and by the constantly occurring antithesis.”

11. The introduction and putting forth of the thoughts also is peculiar. “The Writer ever goes at once in res medias ; and with the first sentence which begins a section, usually an interrogative or imperative one, says out at once fully and entirely that which he has in his heart: so that in almost every case the first words of each section might serve as a title for it. The further development of the thought then is regressive, explaining and grounding the preceding sentence, and concludes with a comprehensive sentence, recapitulating that with which he began [119] .”

[119] Wiesinger, Einl. p. 44.

12. The Greek of our Epistle is peculiar. It is comparatively free from Hebraisms; the words are weighty and expressive: the constructions for the most part those found in the purer Greek. It does not sound, in reading, like the rest of the N. T. There is only a slight link or two, connecting the speech of James in Acts 15:0 . with it, which serves somewhat to identify its language with that. Such is ἀκούσατε , ἀδελφοί μου ἀγαπητοί , ch. James 2:5 , compared with ἄνδρες ἀδελφοί , ἀκούσατε μου , Acts 15:13 . We trace his hand also in the only two places where in a Christian Epistle the ordinary Greek greeting χαίρειν occurs, Acts 15:23 ; James 1:1 . The Greek style of this Epistle must ever remain, considering the native place and position of its Writer, one of those difficulties, with which it is impossible for us now to deal satisfactorily.



1. The previous enquiry, in § i., regarding the authorship of our Epistle, proceeded ex concesso , assuming that the commonly received superscription rightly designates the Epistle as the work of some apostolic person bearing the name of James. It remains for us now to enquire, how far such an assumption is justified.

2. And here we have before us a question not easily settled, and on which both the ancients and moderns have been much divided. The sum of ancient testimony is as follows:

3. The intimate connexion admitted to subsist between it and the First Epistle of St. Peter, while it is valueless as an evidence of priority on either side, may fairly be taken into account as an element in our enquiry [120] . The places cited in the note cannot be for a moment fairly called imitations. The case stands much as that between the common passages in 2 Peter and Jude. It may legitimately be supposed, that the writers of the two Epistles were accustomed to hold the same language and exhort much in the same strains were employed in the apostolic work together: and that thus portions of that teaching in the Spirit, which they had long carried on in common at Jerusalem, found their way into their writings also. I cannot but regard this circumstance as a weighty evidence for the Epistle being written in the apostolic age, and by one who was St. Peter’s friend and companion at Jerusalem in its earlier periods.

[120] Compare especially James 1:2 f. with 1 Peter 1:6-7 ; James 1:10 f. with 1 Peter 1:24 ; Jam 1:21 with 1 Peter 2:1 f.; James 4:6 ; Jam 4:10 with 1 Peter 5:5 f.; Jam 5:20 with 1 Peter 4:8 .

4. If this were so, it surprises us to find the Epistle so little used or referred to by the Apostolic Fathers. Several more or less distant and uncertain allusions have been pointed out in the writings of Clement of Rome [121] , Hermas [122] , and Irenæus [123] . Of these the two former are very doubtful indeed: the latter would seem as if Irenæus was acquainted with our Epistle, seeing that two particulars, not conjoined, and one of them not perhaps even mentioned by the LXX [124] , are coupled by him as they are in this Epistle. Still we must remember that for this citation we have not the Greek of Irenæus, but only his Latin interpreter.

[121] Ep. i. ad Cor. c. 10, p. 228, Ἀβραὰμ ὁ φίλος προσαγορευθεὶς πιστὸς εὑρέθη ἐν τῷ αὐτὸν ὑπήκοον γενέσθαι τοῖς ῥήμασι τοῦ θεοῦ : cf. James 2:21 ; James 2:23 . Ib. c. 12, p. 232, διὰ πίστιν κ . φιλοξενίαν ἐσώθη Ῥαὰβ ἡ πόρνη : cf. James 2:25 .

[122] ii. Mand. xii. 5, Migne, Patr. Gr. vol. ii. p. 949, δύναται ὁ διάβολος παλαῖσαι · καταπαλαῖσαι δὲ οὐ δύναται · ἐὰν οὖν ἀντιστῇς αὐτόν , νικηθεὶς φεύξεται ἀπὸ σοῦ κατῃσχυμμένος ; cf. James 4:7 .

[123] Hær. iv. 16. 2, p. 246, “Abraham.… credidit Deo, et reputatum est illi ad justitiam, et amicus Dei vocatus est:” cf James 2:23 .

[124] See note in loc., James 2:23 .

5. It is difficult to believe, notwithstanding the precariousness of the phrases cited to prove it, but that Hermas was acquainted with our Epistle. The whole cast of some passages resembles its tone and tenor exceedingly. Cf. especially lib. ii. Mandate ix. p. 836, where he treats of διψυχία , and in fact expands the thoughts and words of St. James:e. g.

ἆρον ἀπὸ σοῦ τὴν διψυχίαν , καὶ μηδενὸς ὅλως διψυχήσῃς , αἰτήσασθαι ἀπὸ θεοῦ .… οὐκ ἔστι γὰρ ὁ θεὸς ὡς οἱ ἄνθρωποι μνησικακοῦντες , ἀλλ ʼ αὐτὸς ἀμνησίκακός ἐστι καὶ σπλαγχνίζεται ἐπὶ τὴν ποίησιν αὐτοῦ .… ἐὰν δὲ διστάσῃς ἐν τῇ καρδίᾳ σου , οὐδὲν οὐ μὴ λήψῃ τῶν αἰτημάτων σου . οἱ γὰρ διστάζοντες εἰς τὸν θεόν , οὗτοί εἰσιν ὡς δίψυχοι , καὶ οὐδὲν ὅλως λαμβάνουσι τῶν αἰτημάτων αὐτῶν . οἳ δὲ ὁλοτελεῖς ὄντες ἐν τῇ πίστει πάντα αἰτοῦνται , πεποιθότες ἐπὶ τὸν θεόν , καὶ λαμβάνουσιν , ὅτι ἀδιστάκτως αἰτοῦνται , μηδὲν διψυχοῦντες . πᾶς γὰρ δίψυχος ἀνήρ , ἐὰν μὴ μετανοήσει , δυσκόλως σωθήσεται .

Compare this with our ch. James 1:5-7 , and it is hardly possible to believe the two entirely independent of one another.

6. The first Father who has expressly cited the Epistle is Origen. In his Comm. in Joan. tom. xix. 6, vol. iv. p. 306, we read

ἐὰν γὰρ λέγηται μὲν πίστις , χωρὶς δὲ ἔργων τυγχάνῃ , νεκρά ἐστιν ἡ τοιαύτη , ὡς ἐν τῇ φερομένῃ Ἰακώβου ἐπιστολῇ ἀνέγνωμεν .

Cf. also Selecta in Exodum, vol. ii. p. 124, διὸ καὶ ἐλέχθη , ὅτι ὁ θεὸς ἀπείραστός ἐστι κακῶν , James 1:13 . And in several places in Rufinus’s Latin version we have citations, as e. g. in the Homil. viii. 4 on Exod. ib. p. 158, “Sed et apostolus Jacobus dicit:” see also Hom. ii. 4 on Levit. ib. p. 191, “ita enim dicit scriptura divina: Qui converti fecerit peccatorem, &c.,” James 5:20 ; and again in the same section, “illud quod Jacobus apostolus dicit,” and ib. pp. 251, 255, 340.

7. Eusebius (H. E. iii. 25) says

τῶν δ ʼ ἀντιλεγομένων , γνωρίμων δ ʼ οὖν ὅμως τοῖς πολλοῖς , ἡ λεγομένη Ἰακώβου φέρεται καὶ ἡ Ἰούδα , ἥ τε Πέτρου δευτέρα ἐπιστολή , καὶ ἡ ὀνομαζομένη δευτέρα καὶ τρίτη Ἰωάννου , εἴτε τοῦ εὐαγγελιστοῦ τυγχάνουσαι , εἴτε καὶ ἑτέρου ὁμωνύμου ἐκείνῳ .

And again in H. E. ii. 23, after relating the death of St. James, he says

τοιαῦτα καὶ τὰ κατὰ τὸν Ἰάκωβον , οὗ ἡ πρώτη τῶν ὀνομαζομένων καθολικῶν ἐπιστολῶν εἶναι λέγεται · ἰστέον δὲ ὡς νοθεύεται μέν · οὐ πολλοὶ γοῦν τῶν παλαιῶν αὐτῆς ἐμνημόνευσαν , ὡς οὐδὲ τῆς λεγομένης Ἰούδα , μιᾶς καὶ αὐτῆς οὔσης τῶν ἑπτὰ λεγομένων καθολικῶν . ὅμως δὲ ἴσμεν καὶ ταύτας μετὰ τῶν λοιπῶν ἐν πλείσταις δεδημοσιευμένας ἐκκλησίαις .

In this passage it can hardly be that νοθεύεται expresses Eusebius’s own opinion as to the fact “it is spurious:” but it simply announces the fact, that “ it is accounted spurious .”

8. In H. E. vi. 14, Eusebius says of Clement of Alexandria

ἐν δὲ ταῖς ὑποτυπώσεσι , ξυνελόντα εἰπεῖν , πάσης τῆς ἐνδιαθήκου γραφῆς ἐπιτετμημένας πεποίηται διηγήσεις , μηδὲ τὰς ἀντιλεγομένας παρελθών , τὴν Ἰούδα λέγω καὶ τὰς λοιπὰς καθολικὰς ἐπιστολάς , τήν τε Βαρνάβα καὶ τὴν Πέτρου λεγομένην ἀποκάλυψιν .

But it is manifest, that even were we to take this as fact, its testimony, when taken with the last clause, is very feeble as regards the canonicity of our Epistle.

9. Hippolytus, Bishop of Portus near Rome, quotes our Epistle apparently as Scripture, but not by name (ed. Lagarde, p. 122, l. 8):

αἱ λαμπάδες ὑμῶν σκοτειναί εἰσιν ἐκ τῆς ἀσπλαγχνίας · ἀπέλθετε ἀπ ʼ ἐμοῦ · ἡ γὰρ κρίσις ἀνίλεώς ἐστι τῷ μὴ ποιήσαντι ἔλεος ( Jam 2:13 ).

10. Jerome, in his Catalog. Scriptorum Ecclesiastes 2:0 , vol. ii. p. 829, says

“Jacobus, qui appellatur frater Domini, cognomento Justus … unam tantum scripsit epistolam, quæ de septem catholicis est, quæ et ipsa ab alio quodam sub nomine ejus edita asseritur, licet paullatim tempore procedente obtinuerit auctoritatem.”

11. Against these somewhat equivocal testimonies of the early Fathers, may be set the fact, that the Peschito, or primitive Syriac version, contained our Epistle from the first, although it omitted the second and third of John, Jude, and the Apocalypse. And this fact has the more weight because the Syrian church lay so near to the country whence the Epistle originated, and to those to which it was, in all probability, principally addressed. And, as might be expected, we find it received and cited by the Syrian church as the Epistle of James the Lord’s brother. So Ephrem Syrus, and other writers of that church.

12. In the Western church also it soon, though gradually, rose into general acceptation and canonical authority. It was recognized by the council of Carthage in 397. From that time onward, we find it universally received: and indeed the great company of illustrious Greek Fathers of the fourth century all quote it as canonical Scripture: Athanasius, both the Cyrils, Gregory of Nazianzum, Epiphanius, Philastrius, Chrysostom, the author of the Synopsis, &c.

13. Various reasons might be assigned for the delay in receiving the Epistle, and the doubts long prevalent respecting it. The uncertainty about the personal identity and standing of its Writer: the fact, that it was addressed entirely to Jewish believers: the omission in it of most of the particulars of distinctively Christian doctrine: its seeming opposition to the doctrine of justification as laid down by St. Paul: all these would naturally work together to indispose the minds of Gentile Christians towards it. But as Thiersch and Wiesinger have rightly remarked, so much the more valuable are those recognitions of its genuineness and canonicity which we do meet with.

14. At the time of the Reformation, the doubts which once prevailed concerning the Epistle, were again revived. Erasmus, Cardinal Cajetan, Luther, Grotius, Wetstein, shared more or less in these doubts: and their example has been followed by several of the modern Commentators, e. g. Schleiermacher, De Wette, Reuss, Baur, Schwegler, Ritschl. The opinions of all these and their grounds will be found fairly set forth in Huther’s Einleitung, pp. 24 35: and in Davidson’s Introduction to the N. T., vol. iii. pp. 339 345.

15. On the whole, on any intelligible principles of canonical reception of early writings, we cannot refuse this Epistle a place in the canon. That that place was given it from the first in some part of the church; that, in spite of many adverse circumstances, it gradually won that place in other parts; that when thoroughly considered, it is so consistent with and worthy of his character and standing whose name it bears; that it is marked off by so strong a line of distinction from the writings and Epistles which have not attained a place in the canon: all these are considerations which, though they do not in this, any more than in other cases, amount to demonstration, yet furnish when combined a proof hardly to be resisted, that the place where we now find it in the N. T. canon is that which it ought to have, and which God in His Providence has guided His Church to assign to it.

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