Epistle of James

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The Epistle of James, usually referred to simply as James, is a book in the New Testament. The author identifies himself as "James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ".



The epistle may not be a true piece of correspondence between specific parties, but rather an example of wisdom literature formulated as a letter for circulation. The work is considered New Testament wisdom literature because, "like Proverbs and Sirach, it consists largely of moral exhortations and precepts of a traditional and eclectic nature."[1] Similarly, the Catholic Encyclopedia says, "the subjects treated of in the Epistle are many and various; moreover, St. James not infrequently, whilst elucidating a certain point, passes abruptly to another, and presently resumes once more his former argument."[2]


The writer calls himself simply “James, a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Jas 1:1) Jesus had two apostles named James (Mt 10:2, 3), but it is unlikely that either of these wrote the letter. One apostle, James the son of Zebedee, was martyred about 44 C.E. This would be very early for him to have been the writer. (Ac 12:1, 2) The other apostle James, the son of Alphaeus, is not prominent in the Scriptural record, and very little is known about him. The outspoken nature of the letter of James would seem to weigh against the writer’s being James the son of Alphaeus, for he would likely have identified himself as one of the 12 apostles, in order to back up his strong words with apostolic authority.

Rather, evidence points to James the half brother of Jesus Christ, to whom the resurrected Christ evidently had made a special appearance, and who was prominent among the disciples. (Mt 13:55; Ac 21:15-25; 1Co 15:7; Ga 2:9) The writer of the letter of James identifies himself as “a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,” in much the same way as did Jude, who introduced the letter of Jude by calling himself “a slave of Jesus Christ, but a brother of James.” (Jas 1:1; Jude 1) Furthermore, the salutation of James’ letter includes the term “Greetings!” in the same way as did the letter concerning circumcision that was sent to the congregations. In this latter instance it was apparently Jesus’ half brother James who spoke prominently in the assembly of “the apostles and the older men” at Jerusalem.—Ac 15:13, 22, 23.

The author identifies himself in the opening verse as "James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ". From the middle of the 3rd century, patristic authors cited the Epistle as written by James the Just, a relation of Jesus and first Bishop of Jerusalem.[3] Not numbered among the Twelve Apostles, unless he is identified as James the Less,[4] James was nonetheless a very important figure: Paul described him as "the brother of the Lord" in Galatians 1:19 and as one of the three "pillars of the Church" in 2:9. He is traditionally considered the first of the Seventy Disciples. John Calvin and others suggested that the author was the Apostle James, son of Alphaeus, who was often identified with James the Just. If written by James the Just, the place and time of the writing of the epistle would be Jerusalem, where James resided before his martyrdom in 62AD.

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