Letter of James
JAMES, LETTER OF. This letter is among the last to become firmly established in the NT canon. While traces of it seem to be found in the writings of the apostolic fathers (a.d. 90-155), the oldest author to mention it by name is Origen (250), who considers it canonical, although he is aware that its canonicity is not universally acknowledged. Eusebius (323) lists it among the disputed books but says it is read in most churches. In the East the church accepted it from a very early period, but in the West it was not received into the canon until the end of the fourth century.
The author of the letter refers to himself as “James, a servant of God and of the Lord
All the characteristics of the letter support the traditional attribution of it to James the brother of the Lord. The author speaks with the authority of one who knew he did not need to justify or defend his position. There is no more Jewish book in the NT than this letter; and this is to be expected from a man whom both tradition and the rest of the NT show was distinguished by a greater attachment to the law of Moses than Paul had. The whole of the letter, moreover, bears a striking resemblance to the, both in the loftiness of its morality and in the simple grandeur of its expression.
The scholars who consider this letter the work of James the brother of the Lord do not agree on the date when it was written. Two views are held, one that it was composed shortly before the death of James, in the early sixties; the other, that it appeared in the middle forties, before the Apostolic Council. In favor of the early date are the striking simplicity of church organization and discipline, the fact that Christians still met in the synagogue (
The informal character of the letter makes a logical analysis difficult. It is not a formal treatise, but a loosely related series of exhortations, warnings, and instructions, all dealing with the moral and religious life. The author rules authoritatively on questions of church life and discipline that have been brought to his attention.
The section on faith and works (
Bibliography: J. B. Mayor, The Epistle of St. James, 1897 (on the Greek text); B. Reicke, The Epistles of James, Peter and Jude (AB), 1964; C. L. Mitton, The, 1966; J. B. Adamson, The Epistle of James (NIC), 1976; S. S. Laws, The Epistle of James (HNTC), 1980; P. H. Davids, The Epistle of James (NIGTC), 1982 (on the Greek text).——SB