The Letter of James is often described as pseudonymous, meaning that the letter is attributed to James but not actually written by him. In fact, this is an issue for several of the books of the New Testament: The Pastoral Epistles, Ephesians, Colossians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Peter, and Jude have all been described as pseudonymous. It is important therefore to think a bit about the practice of pseudonymity in the ancient world, especially as it relates to the authority of the text.
James Dunn wrote the article on Pseudepigraphy in the Dictionary of Later New Testament (IVP, 1997, 977-984). Beginning with the alleged Pauline pseudonymous letters, Dunn creates a methodology for identifying a letter as post-Pauline. Simply put, compare the letter to the others which are undeniably from Paul. In his view, Ephesians and Colossians may or may not be pseudonymous, the pastorals likely represent a “post Pauline tradition.” But as Dunn admits, this method is hard to use on James, Jude, and the letters of Peter. There is no other undisputed work of James, so it is difficult to judge. In fact, he says that the distinction between genuine and pseudonymous with respect to James and 1 Peter is a meaningless argument since in the end we cannot really tell.
On the other hand, a fair argument could be made that James the Just was the author of the letter of James. Conservative scholars (Karen Jobes, Letters to the Church, Terry Wilder, Faithful to the End) consider James’s allusions to the teach of Jesus as well as similarities with the character of James in the book of Acts a evidence the traditional authorship is at least possible (if not likely). These observations track with Dunn’s method (compare the letter to a known source), but at least the comparison to Acts is potentially week since we read the speech of James as reported by Luke, who was not yet a companion of Paul. I do think that Faithful to the End is correct in connecting the James of Acts 15 to the James of the Letter. The character of James in Acts is so consistent with the writer of the Letter of James I have no trouble equating the two.
But the issue of pseudonymity remains. If a letter can be proven to be pseudonymous, does that reduce the authority of that letter in the New Testament canon? Perhaps not.
A writer may choose to attach another name to their work for a variety of reasons, some of which are entirely innocent. For example, it is entirely possible that a writer knew the teaching of James very well and created a letter which accurately reflected the teaching of James, and perhaps this writer even used snippets of James’ teaching. In this case, the Letter of James was not actually penned by James, but is an accurate record of his teaching. There are still some ramifications for inerrancy since the first lines of the book claim to be a letter from James to churches in the Diaspora, but this sort of soft-pseudonymity is not a serious problem. In fact, it is likely that prophets of the Hebrew Bible were assembled in just this way by anonymous editors who accurately recorded the words of their prophet.
On the other hand, a writer may have attached the name of James to the letter in order to give credence to his own ideas, whether they came form James or not. Usually any theory of this sort places the writing of the book well beyond the time of James life, perhaps as late as the second century. This strong-pseudonymity is a much bigger problem for the authority of the text, since the books of the New Testament are assumed to have Apostolic authority. If the letter comes from a much later date and a non-Apostolic author, does it have the same level of authority?
For someone like J. I. Packer, “Pseudonymity and canonicity are mutually exclusive” (Packer, “Fundamentalism” and the Word of God, 184). Conservative scholars appeal to Eusebius, who reported that the church fathers rejected anything that was not known to have come from an apostle or someone from within the apostolic (Eccl. Hist. 6.12.3). I think most conservatives would agree with this assessment and dismiss any argument against the traditional answer that James, the brother of Jesus wrote the letter.
If James was a collection of sayings of the historical James rather than a letter written by him, would that change the authority of the Letter of James for you?
39 thoughts on “Is the Letter of James Pseudonymous?”
I personally don’t understand the point of addressing the issue of authorship in regards to the book of James. As it is, it reads “James, a servant of God.” To me, this is not worth debating, especially in an academic space. As far as the authorship is concerned, hypothetically it would not affect my understanding of the book and its authority. I side with history on the canon of scripture and trust the judgment of those who have adapted it into our Bibles today. It is my humble opinion that most 1st century texts like this one are as close as we will get to understanding Jesus and his teachings. Wether James wrote it or not is certainly relevant, but I see no reason to doubt it. At the very least, not as much reason as the pastorals or other NT literature.
I think there’s a pretty big advantage if we can prove that the letter was written by the James from the book of Acts. That would mean we have a letter that reflects the earliest stages of Jewish Christianity, perhaps in the 40s AD. If the book is written much later say 80 or 100 years later then reflects much later stage in the development of Christianity. I suppose this is a historical, academic question, but it just makes a difference in how we read the letter itself.
Perhaps from the perspective of authority, it makes no difference. The book is canonical whether it comes from historical James or not.
Topics like pseudonymity have always been an issue in my head. Since i understood that the New Testament was gathered by a group of individuals a few centuries after they were actually written, I have wondered what made them make the decisions they made. If they believed James was a letter from who it claims to be from, then why shouldn’t we believe it too? It does not matter to me either way though, because it is still in the list of books considered to be the Word of God penned out by whoever He had do it. If it was written by James’ disciples or someone who truly thought the same as he did and wanted his ideas to be made known, then that must be how God intended us to get the book of James. Honestly, and this is only my opinion lately–before last year it wouldn’t have mattered at all to me– the question of who actually physically wrote the book only matters when there are details or points of context that need to be addressed. And there might not even be any between James the Just writing it and some other person writing it. God wanted it in the Bible, so we have it in the Bible.
Some scholars argue the pseudonymity of the book of James. They claim such factors as the use of the Greek language, the author not identifying himself thoroughly, the slow acceptance of James into the canon, and the seemingly interactive writing with the works of Paul. Jobes sees these arguments as “not compelling evidence” to claim that the book could not have been written by James the Just.
The book of James may have been written by the man who grew up as a brother to Jesus, by one of his followers who wrote for him, by one of several men named James who are mentioned in the New Testament, or by someone simply using the name of James to further his own writings. Whatever the source, this does not need to reduce the authority of this letter in the New Testament canon and the Holy Spirit’s guiding that it be placed among the Scriptures.
For me personally, no, the letter is in the Bible for a reason. God’s hand was over the entire process, from writing to keeping the words going, to the council that decided what went into the finished work of Scripture. The other reason I have no problem is the fact that it’s not all that contradictory to the rest of scripture. It doesn’t come up with some new Gospel. The book has 108 verses and 60 are commands, James intends to command readers on the nature of faith. Along with faith, he talks about religion and wisdom. Dates and author don’t really matter when truth, is being written. If it was truly a problem it wouldn’t be canonized.
In my opinion, the issues of pseudonymity should not be something that is dwelled on too much in Christian circles. If we truly believe the words of 2 Timothy 3:16, then ALL scripture is God breathed. If God is in charge of what scripture says, then does it matter which human wrote it down? 2 Timothy 3:16 also states that scripture is useful for preaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness. James has great use for us as Christians regardless of the author.
Can something be both inspired and pseudepigrphic? If God inspired a letter like James, then would it be authoritative even if it was not written by the James of Acts 15 or Galatians 2?
I will be honest and say I agree with your point Taylor. If we are to believe that all scripture is God breathed, then we have to take into that belief the fact that it is the inspired word of God. Now I’m not saying the we should put 1 and 2 Chan in the Bible with the works of Francis Chan, but I do think that James does nothing to contradict scripture, and there are obvious reasons to why it was chosen by the original creators of the Canon of Scripture.
My problem is that the Timothy text is applied to the entire 66 books- canon accepted by only a portion of Christendom, whilst in the first instance in its original context it referred ONLY to the Old Testament and then we are not absolutely sure if it refers the the current whole Old Testament or only the Torah (Law) and Nav’im (Prophets). I am however as comfortable with the Protestant Canon as sufficient for salvation, as I am with the Early fathers in their canon (rule, i.e. Eusebius’ argument for apostolic or apostolic school authorship) for establishing the Biblical Canon of 66 books even though it took some time (5 centuries if I am not mistaken) to get to that final stage. Anybody familiar with Canon history would know that various books now included has been subject to doubt until late (as Luther’s initially on James) whilst others initially included like Hermas has disappeared rather quickly from the canon list, even though such was highly regarded spiritually by the early church.
I am sure that there would have been sufficient objection recorded at the time of writing should the pseudograph have diverted sufficiently from the original author’s thoughts, the same way a biographer’s work would be considered against the available knowledge or the original author himself if still alive. Thanks for wonderful food for thought.
Adriaan, thanks for the comment, and I think your point is well made. Using Robert Wall as an example, he argues James was written very late, and although it may contain actual traditions that date back to a ‘historical James” it was the creation of an early second century Jewish Christian who sought to balance the growing influence of Pauline theology. By the time the Canon was being seriously discussed, James was accepted as authentic since knowledge of the process by which the book came to be was forgotten.
Canon discussions start in the third century and most of the NT books were not questioned even as late as Nicea in AD 325. I am going to return to this in a few weeks when I address 2 Peter, the letter which seems the beset candidate for a pseudonymous authorship in the NT.
I understand this kind of thinking, as it used to be mine. Even through the equivalent of a major in Bible (B.A.) and then 3 years of seminary (Talbot, M.Div.), I wasn’t much concerned about authorship and dating of books. I became so many years later, on deeper reflection and study.
Now, I see clearly how and why “historical criticism” of the Bible got going, particularly in the 1700s, and usually by faithful, sincere “churchmen” (virtually no women back then, in scholarly pursuits).
In your citation of 2 Tim. 3:16, for example, there is this significant issue: If indeed this was by Paul, there WAS no NT “Scripture” yet formed, for the “all Scripture”. That could only have referenced the Hebrew Scriptures, not yet even canonized themselves. Paul was clearly earliest of our canonical authors. General (never 100%) agreement on what was NT “Scripture” was roughly three centuries (!) yet to come. (Note: Pauline authorship of the “Pastoral Epistles” is the older traditional position, now held, for quite a while, by only a small minority of all biblical scholars, including a good many “conservative” ones, from the best I can ascertain. It became my position after serious study, some time ago.)
So where does that leave us? With the need to understand and take seriously how “authority” was established, not by the end of the Apostles’ lives, but WELL after then. (The end of the “Apostolic Age” was essentially before 70 A.D. and Jerusalem’s destruction, with possible exceptions for John and Peter surviving and writing later. But we have no certainty they or any of the group survived that late or later… best chance re. John. But then, we can’t be sure he authored any of the 5 NT books attributed to “John” as author, or traditionally taken so (such as the Gospel of J.)
This is not a definitive argument, but it’s a real stretch to think that any of the Galilean peasant disciples not only were literate in Greek (lang. of composition of the NT, with a couple possible exceptions unable to be proven), but had the higher-level Greek literary skills shown in books attributed to them. You have to know a fair amount about NT backgrounds and Greek writing to understand why this is so, but that is within reach of even an undergrad student who might pursue it.
You probably know that Paul is not in this group… MUCH better educated and from a mixed-ethnicity area of Asia Minor (probably Tarsus, as cited in the NT once) where he would have known Greek quite well, at a literary level. And, going back to dating issues, we can be almost certain Paul died by the mid 60s A.D.; and that the Apostles in Jerusalem were at least scattered around the same time, if not killed or deceased by natural death.
I know this is “down in the weeds” some, but study of NT backgrounds and Christian origins, both within the canonical NT and through the pertinent surrounding documents and archaeology is fascinating and important!
(The computer key board died in mid sentence in the library.) The website says that the disperision happened in 63 A.D. and went till 70 A.D. which is just after he died mean he could not have written it. But the James could also begin talking about a previous experience when the tribe was dispersed. Either way I would say that James wrote it because it doesn’t talk about the diaspora and the events that are going on in the one post his death, and the referring to the 12 tribes seems to be referring more to the previous one because they were more distinct tribes in the time prier.
The ESV says there is no reason for it not to be James Jesus brother. It fits his writing style and also is in the time of his life. It is believed to be written in the 40’s A.D. And James didn’t die until 62A.D. When he was executed, also it speaks to the twelve tribes going through the diaspora and how they need to come together and cast away worldly hing and trust in God and become more spiritual again. This all speaks to the time of around 42-47 A.D. Right before the apostolic council. Because if the council had happened already there is no reason the author would have left that out and also there is no account of his own death in the letter which is common when written by someone else.
Wellywellys, it appears you are working on how to analyze data points, implications, etc. That’s a good thing that too few do!
However, a couple issues I note: I’d wonder what “ESV” means if they (committee, I believe) are the ones saying “it fits his writing style”. Based on what? I’m unaware of any other claimed writing by James to get this from. The other: at the end, you use an “argument from silence” twice. It’s shaky to use it even once, and if one does, one should support it with evidence why we’d normally really expect something that’s missing. To use “silence” twice without strong reasons is really risky.
To answer your question, no. It would not change the credibility of the Bible or the authority this book has in my life. Similar to what Nick said earlier. The authority the Bible has is from it being inspired by God and not from who wrote it. The authors who physically wrote the books are doing so by God;\’s guidance making it authoritative no matter the author.
I can see the relevance in finding out who the author is, though. By finding the author it would help to understand the mind behind the author. James being Jesus’s brother would make it interesting to see what he was thinking. Knowing who the writer is could also help us know who was teaching what, and how thoughts were progressing in the time period that writer was in. This would all lead to in-depth research for the Bible.
Does it lower the credibility of the book? No, but it makes it more interesting to read and know where the author
I’m sorry but I beg to differ, it is exactly Eusebius’ point that (human) authorship is important, claiming only Divine inspiration without acknowledgment of the human author is extremely dangerous, as then writings from anybody would be acceptable, for instance Diotrefes (3 John 9) or later Marcion and the danger is further that inspired Scripture would then technically be able to be authored to our day. The early church recognised this, therefore the restriction to Apostolic or Apostolic school authorship.
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The answer is no. The author is James. The epistle is the earliest NT text we have – dating to the early 40’s. Schlatter is right.
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Wow… this post opens a lot of significant issues to discuss, in greater depth than one thread can well carry. I posted some of them under Taylor’s comments (above, from my current placement perspective).
The issue of pseudepigrapha is an important one for not only “scholarship” but for lay Christians. We “progressives” also wrestle with authority issues related to this, though in different ways. Though I know he is probably either “forbidden” or just rejected reading for many of your readers or students, I highly recommend the book of a few years back of Bart Ehrman, “Forged”. It is one of the few lay-oriented books based on deep scholarship that elaborates the issues in what I consider a fair and truly historical way.
He has some original and “corrective” contributions to our understanding of authorship, attribution and real attitudes toward forgery in the NT era… some of them right out of our NT. (Ehrman, as a former Evangelical and now agnostic, seems to be as objectively “historical” rather than “theological” as any scholar can be, though he does let his skeptical-of-traditionalism stance show through once in a while. His historical work is solid, though his implied theological conclusions are naturally challenged often by Evangelicals or other conservatives.)
Additionally, Ehrman’s book, “Lost Christianities”, covers some of the authorship and attribution issues, plus a lot on canonization and particularly on how “proto-orthodoxy” and orthodoxy developed very gradually and with lots of intellectual and power-struggle battles. Of course, he’s got lots of company in scholars who’ve written on canonization and NT backgrounds without a bias towards confirming assumptions or 4th-century “conclusions”. These and subsequent ones were based heavily on the very dubious stories and points of Eusebius, who has repeatedly been shown to have been an early and major “spinmeister”, a creator of spin to make a point (and being, btw, under the employ of the dubiously motivated Constantine). This “Lost Christianities” is also a must read for Christians of all types, or others akin to it, if based on similar quality of scholarship. (Again, whatever fine-point critiques of Ehrman may be valid here and there, his overall work cannot be readily discounted and should be interacted with.)
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This is a recurring topic, that i have noticed as i continue to read assignments for this class. It seems to be that almost every letter I have read so far is hard to put a for sure author to it. The conversation of if James is pseudonymous is yet another great example. However, my favorite saying from the above blog post by P. Long is this, “In fact, he says that the distinction between genuine and pseudonymous with respect to James and 1 Peter is a meaningless argument since in the end we cannot really tell”. No matter how much we look into it, no matter how much study is done, whose opinion it is, the truth of whoever wrote the book of James will still remain a mystery. It is only God who truly knows. Yet, that does not take away from the significance of the book. At least not for me. After reading the chapter on James by Jobes it states this on why it is imporant, “Jesus himself wrote no books of the New Testament, but the letters from James and Jude are likely to have come from Jesus’ own half brothers. That alone should make this book of special interest to Christians. This letter provides a glimpse into how a brother of Jesus came to understand the significance of Jesus’ life and the role Jesus’ family played in the early church” (Jobes, 178). Rather than worrying if the book is pseudonymous or not i like to look at it like Jobes states. There is value in the book of James whether it is directly from James or from someone who is speaking to what James believes. Therefore, the debate of if it is pseudonymous or not does not change the authority of the letter for me.
The textbook, “Letters to the Church,” by Karen Jobes presents five different reasons that one might believe the book of James to be a pseudonymous writing. The second reason she states is that, “…the author of James doesn’t identify himself as Jesus’ brother” (Jobes 154). She later goes onto explain that this actually argues against a pseudonymous authorship. If James did write the book then he would not have to explain that he was the brother of Jesus. He would know that everyone already knew who he was. Someone who wrote the book as James might have stressed the fact that they were Jesus brother so that they could be more credible as an author. Jobes gives other reasons for a pseudonymous authorship, but she combats them all with reasons why not. Whether or not the book of James is Pseudonymous, I do not believe that it loses any authority. If James wrote the book with his own knowledge then that is great. If someone who was close to James and knew his teachings wrote the book with James knowledge then that is great. 2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness.” Therefore, the authority of James does not change for me.
Jobes points out a few good reasons why the book of James could be a pseudonymous work. The first reason was that the Greek that the writings were translated in were too accurate to be written by a Palestinian Jew (Jobes, 154). The second is the obvious one about James with that of him not saying the brother of Jesus is writing this book in the introduction or even the first chapter (Jobes, 154). Since the author of James doesn’t actually call himself James the brother of Jesus, or anything for that matter, this argues against pseudonymous works. Jobes speaks about the fact that if it truly was different authorship the people he was writing too would’ve already known his relationship between himself and Jesus (Jobes, 155). This being said, it seems that the authority of the letter is still present regardless of the relationship between the author and Jesus. The author still knows about Jesus and his teachings and knows exactly what he is speaking about. It is clear that the power of the message is still present, and the author is clearly letting the readers know that faith is something that needs to be protected. Whether the authorship is presented by James the brother of Jesus, or just by an amanuensis or some other writer, the authority of the writer is still present within the book of James.
As the same topic as the last article about figuring out who wrote the book of James comes up. We will never know for sure on this earth who wrote this book. Although there is compelling evidence such as sayings that James would’ve said if he wrote it and aren’t in there, such as the brother of Jesus. This still isn’t much to go off of. I know for me that writing something down, I write to get it off of my head and then use that point moving forward into what I’m trying to say. This being said James could have just not wanted to say “The brother of Jesus” in his book for many reasons. But the truth is that we will never truly know who wrote this book until the day we make it to heaven and can ask James if he did or did not write it. As we discuss who wrote the book, I think it takes off the meaning that this book has to offer, this book although it remains authorless still has a side of which we can take and learn from. We notice that this book clashes with Paul’s book but as any good argument goes it’s good to have multiple angles of a story as the evidence and true story comes out. So, although we may not know the author, we can learn more about God and who he truly is.
In short, no, the authority of the letter does not change for me whether is was written by the historical James, half brother of Jesus himself or by someone simply relaying James’ teachings through their own God-inspired way. Regardless of who wrote it, the letter is still God-breathed and should be taken seriously. Although there is some speculation as to who wrote it, I believe that the arrow is best pointing towards James, half brother of Jesus as the author. In Letters to The Church, Jobes talk about how scholars believe the letter could have been written no later than AD 44. (Jobes, Ch 5 of e-book) Peter left Jerusalem “for another place” (Acts 12:17) at around this time, so scholars believe that James may have taken over as leader of the Jerusalem church. Another argument for the authorship of James the half brother of Jesus, was that James 2:14-24 could be interpreted as a response to a teaching of Salvation from Paul. If James wrote separately of Paul’s letters, then the letter would have been written before AD 40 (Long. 76), and we know that it is less likely to have been written that early than it would be if it were speculated that it were written at least after AD 44.
I feel like it would be extremely difficult to debate this topic. As stated in the blog, it is impossible to tell if James actually wrote it because we do not have any letters that we can say James wrote without a doubt. Since it is impossible to tell if he is in fact the actual author, any arguments for or against it being pseudepigraphical will fall short of dispensing others’ beliefs for the authorship of James. At that point, I believe it is important to look at both church history and what the internal evidence points to, which would be that the letter comes from James, the brother of Jesus.
Whether or not the letter is pseudepigraphical, James is a letter that speaks greatly about what living like a Christian looks like in a practical way. It speaks to Jews that had converted in the first century, as well as Gentiles who have an understanding of Jewish ideologies and traditions. It follows the theology presented in other canonical letters at the time, even where it may seem to contradict on the surface (like in 2:14). If it was just someone collecting the sayings of James, it would not diminish its authority, because they would still be inspired words from the Holy Spirit.
I don’t think so. The theology of James and the structure of the texts reflects that this epistle is indeed an inspired words of God and should be treated as God’s word through human author. After reading the book of James, his theology doesn’t contrdict with any kinds of biblical teaching or Paul theology which is one of the reason that I views this epistle authoritatively inspired by God. In facts, it was universally accepted into the New Testament canon, also the Eastern Father of the Church, Origen “refers to James authoritatively in his commentary on other parts of Scripture (Jobes, 176)”.
The thing that first strikes me about this topic is that there have been so many throughout history who have argued and come up with reasons why James could not be the true author. In addition, to try and speculate who else could have written the book “in disguise”, just appears to be drawing at straws. If this has been argued for so long with no concrete answer, then perhaps we need to just trust that if it says “James, a servant of God and the Lord Jesus Christ” (James 1:1), then that is who the author is.
I thought Jobes (2011) did an excellent job of explaining some of the arguments and rebuttals against James as the author. She identifies one of the arguments was based around the Greek language, and the belief that the Greek written in James was too good for a Palestinian Jew to have mastered. This sounds as an almost condescending argument against the Jews of the time, as if some were incapable of mastering a second language. Additionally, Jobes identifies the fact that James never explicitly states he is Jesus’ brother as another argument against authorship. However, I thought her rebuttal to this to be very enlightening, stating that James would have realized that those who knew him would already been aware that Jesus was his brother (p. 155). If that were the case, why should James bother stating that in the letter? Instead Jobes argues that it seems more likely that someone pretending to be James would use this to convince the readers (p. 155).
I can understand how scholars would want to have a concrete answer as to who this James is. However, I do not think the questions surrounding it should impact our reading of the Epistle. This seems a case of needing to trust in the Bible instead of searching for answers debated by scholars who were not there. The fact remains that it has been included in the Bible for a reason, and that alone should be enough to keep its authority as the word of God intact.
Jobes, K.H. (2011). Letters to the Church. Zondervan.
I believe that if James was just a collection of sayings of the historical James, and not a letter written by him, it would change the authority for me. This is because the letter opens with claiming to be written by James. The fact that this letter opens by saying James wrote it means that if he didn’t write it, then whomever wrote it is lying, and I can’t trust their authority. I believe that there could be a lot of great information and teaching that comes from witnessing someone else speak about Jesus and this teaching could be valid and useful, unfortunately once there is dishonesty, the validity of the information is eradicated. Jobes describes the five different points made to create a case that James had in fact been written by someone else. In the pages to follow Jobes does a great job addressing each of these points and discrediting them. (p 154-155) The arguments range from the writer of James being “to educated” to be James The Just, to the fact that James does not address himself as being James, brother of Jesus. Each of the points that are made to discredit James as the author, Jobes explains, and makes it clear that there is really no reason to believe that James did not write this book himself, without the use of a pseudonymity.
As you said, with regard to the question of inherency, “it is likely that prophets of the Hebrew Bible were assembled in just this way by anonymous editors who accurately recorded the words of their prophet” (Long, 2018). With regard to Pseudepigraphy, this question goes beyond whether James had hand written the text or not. You also bring up the possibility that James could be written by some random who wanted to mainstream their own thoughts, which would affect our dating of James to a much later time. Until this can be proven, we just don’t know and the best stance I believe to hold to is that James thoughts and teaching has some form of influence on whoever could have written the text. Whether that was directly or indirectly, I don’t believe to be an inherent issue. If it were to be an inherent issue, many passages would then have to be thrown out. Instead, I think that the theology and teaching within James is good for our understanding of Christian living, and unless heresy is found within the writing based off other scripture, or some other evidence comes out that tells us we can’t trust the writtings, then I see no issue with holding to this letter as an inspired work of God. Whether that’s through James or Through a scribe in relation to James. The only problem I would have is if it was written by a completely random person who had no influence by James and just wanted to share their ideas. This is because the other “soft-pseudonymity” is innocent and still is part of James thoughts. In the other case, it is completely lying, and has no relation to any apostolic influence.
To question the pseudonymity of James requires looking at all elements of the book and how authorship effects them. The end of the blog mentions some ways that the book could be pseudonymous, including that the book was written at a much later date after James was alive by someone else, either as a record of what James taught, or to give credence to their thoughts. However, Jobes suggests a variation to pseudonymity. One suggestion is that the book was actually written before the time of Christ, and later “Christianized” by adding Jesus’ name (157). However, there are issues with pseudonymity both before and after the life of James. One issue with prior authorship is the high Christology that is implied in James’ letter. Even though James only mentions Jesus twice, there are so many other elements of his letter that carry a high Christology, including how he groups Jesus as part of the monotheistic God of Israel. This fairly well rules out authorship before the time of Christ. Pseudonymous authorship after the time of James is also flawed. First of all, that would change the time period in which the book was written, and due to the allusions to James in other literature of the late first and early second century, moving the date further out seems implausible. Another argument that Jobes brings up is that there is no reference to James’ relationship to Jesus. If the book were written pseudonymously, surely they would have mentioned being the half-brother of Jesus as a means to add credibility to the book. However, there was no need for that, because the audience was acquainted with James as a leader of the church. Just as Michelle Obama does not go around signing things as “the wife of a former president.” There is no need for her to do that, since everyone knows who she is. There was no need for James to write of his position, if everyone knew what it was.
It is interesting to comprehend pseudonymity within James. The relationship between authority and pseudonymity is also a hard parallel to grasp. Since the events and letters that were written happened so long ago, with very little evidence for modern scholars to look at, there becomes lots of discussion and debate to the authority and canonicity of a book. Jobes argues that there is very little argument for James to be a pseudonymous writing. In fact, the evidence that seems to make James pseudonymous can be easily contradicted (Jobes, 154-155). The overall dilemma, however, is that if James were to be pseudonymous, then what would that mean for the authority of the letter? Well, it could have no effect on the authority of the letter. If the writer decided to attach “James” to their letter because they were reflecting the original teachings of James, then it would appear to showcase the authority of James as though he himself wrote the letter (Long, 2018). It would be acceptable to understand James as a pseudonymous writing if it was in fact written for this purpose. However, there is also a way that a pseudonymous author could be using Jame’s name so that they can achieve an authority that the author themselves could not achieve (Long, 2018). If the author of James was just using the name to produce an authority equivalent to James the Just, then it would bring into question the authority of the writer. I think with these two possibilities in place, there needs to be a lot of careful consideration for the authority of a pseudonymous writing. Therefore, if a writing would be able to be proven as pseudonymous, then the overall authority would be hindered (even if it was written to portray the influence of the named writer), because trying to distinguish the reason behind the author’s pseudonymity is very theoretical at best. Unless there is conclusive evidence, the authority of that writing would probably end up being hindered at least to some extent.
I personally think that there is enough evidence to be almost completely sure of the face that the letter of James was written by James the brother of Jesus. However, if it were proven without a doubt that the letter was actually pseudonymous or was a collection of sayings of the historical James rather than by him, it would not change the authority of the letter. My first response may be to not consider the letter to be as authoritative or accurate. However, The Bible makes it clear that “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). Other than looking at the context of the book in order to better understand it, it does not matter who the author is. The book of James is in the Bible and therefore is authoritative. Plus, Jobes provides a lot of evidence that takes apart the arguments of those who believe that James is a pseudonymous letter. For example, one argument that some people use is that the author never identifies himself as the brother of Jesus. Jobes says, “The fact that the author of James does not identify himself as a brother of Jesus actually argues against pseudonymous authorship” (Jobes, 155). If James the Just was the writer of the letter, he would know that the original recipients of his letter already know who his family is and what their relationship to Jesus is.
Thinking back to prior knowledge of what books are a part of the cannon and which aren’t, how the process of that decision was made. The Apocrypha (non-canonical books) is a group of books that was written about historical accounts of the people and land at the time in question during the temple period. Now these aren’t considered canonical because there isn’t much beneficial information that contributes to living out a lifestyle dedicated to the Lord; it’s more of a bunch of crazy stories that sound a bit farfetched. Combining these two things gives the outcome that the authority isn’t there given that God was silent, and the stories don’t concern the relationship between Him and His people. When thinking about James as historical sayings or account book, I would still deem this as a canonical book that has authority. The wisdom and spiritual growth that James has to offer that would help us on our walk with the Lord. Taking into consideration that it would be sayings of the historical James I still think that it would have to offer some sort of beneficial matter in order to be written with the intent of being in the New Testament. The authority of certain books is only in question when the Lord draws silent and doesn’t communicate audibly with His people. Not to say that He doesn’t communicate with us He does, but not directly we hear from the Lord today by means of the Holy Spirit.