The question of who wrote the book of James is controversial. The traditional view is that James, the brother of Jesus wrote the book. There is nothing in the Book of James that does not resonate with what we know about James from the book of Acts and Paul’s letter to the Galatians.
There are scholars who doubt whether the book of Acts is useful for constructing the first thirty years of the church, but in the case of James’s role in the early church, Galatians and Acts confirm the picture of James as the leader of the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem as early as A.D. 50 and as late as A.D. 57. But the name James (Ἰάκωβος, Jacob) is very common in the first century and the author does not explicitly call himself the brother of Jesus in the letter. He is a “servant of God and the Lord Jesus Christ” in verse one rather than “James the Just, Brother of Our Lord Jesus Christ.”
There are a number of traditions that describe James as the first “bishop” of Jerusalem, although the use of that title in Eusebius (Hist. Eccl. 4.5.1-4) is anachronistic. An additional complication is that there are a bewildering number of apocryphal stories about James the Just and his leadership of the Jerusalem church. Some of these may contain historical memories of James, but they are buried in layers of polemic legend. Unfortunately they are not much help in either identifying the author of James or developing a profile for the “historical James.”
The letter of James is sometimes seen as a response to the growing dominance of Pauline theology in the early church. Robert Wall recently suggested James is a second century pseudepigrapha added to the canon to balance Paul’s theology. (Nienhuis and Wall, Reading the Epistles of James, Peter, John & Jude as Scripture, Eerdmans, 2013; read my review of the book here). He points out the collection of James, Peter, John and Jude contains letters from the “Pillars of the Church” and framed with two letters from brothers of Jesus. He therefore suggests James is a kind of introduction to a “pillars” collection developed in the second century to balance the Paul collection.
Challenges to the Traditional View
This traditional view that Jesus’ brother wrote the Book of James has been challenged for a number of reasons in modern scholarship. Most recently Dale Allison’s magisterial commentary on James in the ICC series weighs the evidence and concludes James is likely not the author. He points out there is there is no clear knowledge of James before the time of Origen (13). In order to evaluate this claim, Allison surveys many of the alleged allusions to James in early Christian literature, especially in Shepherd of Hermas. He concludes that “informed opinion is dramatically divided over the meaning of these parallels” (22). For some it is obvious James used Shepherd of Hermas (therefore not historical James and a later date for the book), for others James was the inspiration for Hermas (implying an earlier date and maybe the historical James).
Allison also points out that the letter of James seems to misunderstand the theology of Paul (20), something which would be remarkable given the contact between Paul and James according to both Acts and Galatians. This is a good point, but it seems to me to argue against a later date since a writer living in A.D. 150 is less likely to misunderstand Paul than one living a hundred years earlier. The later writer would have all of Paul’s letters available to him as well as knowledge of the controversial nature of Paul’s theology in the first decades of the church. If James was written before Paul wrote Galatians or Romans, then a misunderstanding is more understandable. On the other hand, one could argue a later writer deliberately misrepresented Paul in order to argue against him, creating a straw man argument.
Karen Jobes, on the other hand, points to the use of Q (rather than the canonical gospels) as evidence of an early date (Letters to the Church, 159). Q refers to the sources used by both Matthew and Luke. If James can be shown to use Q then perhaps this is evidence for an earlier date, before the canonical Gospels were written and circulated.
In my view, the letter is the best representative of Jewish Christianity in the New Testament. While I fully understand there were Jewish Christians in Jerusalem will into the third and fourth centuries, the Christian community was almost entirely Jewish until Paul’s missionary activity in the late 40s. The letter of James “fits” the historical context of Acts 1-12 better than the second century.
How would reading James as coming from the leader of the Jerusalem church writing before Acts 15 affect our understanding of the letter?
Bibliography: Dale C. Allison Jr., A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on The Epistle of James (ICC; London: Bloomsbury, 2013).
34 thoughts on “Who Wrote the Book of James?”
Interesting issues raised. A number of related ones come to mind. I’ll try to limit them….
The literacy of Jesus’ family (himself, siblings). It’s widely debated whether Jesus himself could or did write (at least beyond some unknown, perhaps simple inscription in the sand, per the Gospels). As a “teknon” (construction worker or artisan) in a rural (or non-metropolitan) part of Galilee, would he or James (assuming sibling relationship) have been taught to write? And in Greek (Aramaic being almost certainly their spoken language)? Maybe, but it would have been much against the norm and implied a “richer” family than that portrayed in the Gospels. James seems to be legendary more for his piety and administrative acumen than as a literary person. (Writing a well-constructed though brief book is a significant step beyond mere literacy.)
According to Acts, he would seem, soon after Jesus’ death, to have been heavily taken up with church growth, Jewish worship practices, and admin affairs rather than scholarly ones (even if some time before he may have taken over from Peter). If he wasn’t already some kind of writer, would he have spent time/energy learning to become one? Jesus had apparently prioritized written records nor polemics, nor suggested, as far as we know, that his followers use the written word. And we have NO works identified with certainty as written by ANY of the Jerusalem Apostles or leaders (realizing the traditional attribution, besides James, of Epistles of Peter, John and Jude to those respective Apostles/brother (?) of Jesus – Jude, which I do not find to be substantial enough to presume… with stronger arguments for later authorship)…. Anyway, at the least there is no conclusive evidence of any writing by any Jerusalem author, pre or post 70, Jerusalem’s practical end as religious center of both Judaism and Christianity. So, if not Peter or John (or Barnabas, Stephen, etc.), what’s the likelihood of, singly, a book by James, who may not have even been literate… and that of a general teaching/wisdom literature type?
As to a potential polemic against Paul in “James”, here’s just one interesting observation from Acts that is often overlooked and under-analyzed, and which is connected to a series of events and issues of great significance which I won’t go into here (expressed in “Apostle Paul: A Polite Bribe”, among other places):
Acts 21 (esp. vs. 20 ff.) have James telling Paul this, upon his arrival at Jerusalem on his final pre-imprisonment-on-way-to-Rome visit: “…[Jerusalem believers] have been told about you that you teach all the Jews living among the Gentiles to forsake Moses… not to circumcise… or observe the [Jewish] customs. What then is to be done…?” (Should be read in context for the full story.) Point for here is that author Luke has James notably NOT, apparently, correcting the potential misconception but advising Paul on how to counter it demonstrably.
The implication here and elsewhere is that James apparently was not well-informed, directly by Paul or otherwise, as to what Paul actually did teach and advise. (For those not aware, the contact between the two was minimal, and the Acts description of the “Jerusalem Council” somewhat suspect or confusing at the least, in relation to Paul’s writings.) Conversely, IF James was indeed well informed, Acts does NOT make a point that he agreed and/or defended Paul when Paul most needed it after his rescue/arrest in the city…. Nor did James apparently dispatch any practical or “moral” support to Paul while in prison for about a year (or 2?) at Caesarea, a mere 50 or so miles away. And this despite Paul’s having gone to long and dangerous effort to collect and bring to Jerusalem a sizeable collection for “the saints” there.
There clearly are some major missing elements in the history we get from Acts that neither the letters of Paul nor “James” clarifies… the true nature and outcome of the tension and competition, for example. However, Paul gives us enough to clearly see the obfuscation of Acts and to leave us wondering about the specifics of the theology of James, Jerusalem Church leader. At the least, “his” epistle can best be read as lacking support for much of the theology of Paul and potentially supporting James’ continuation of orthodox Jewish observance at the Temple, as pictured in Acts (vs. the “supercessionist” implications of the book of Hebrews).
Clarification of typo above: I missed “not” in saying Jesus “prioritized written records…” Also, I perhaps should have qualified Jesus almost certain “spoken language” as “main spoken language” of Aramaic… He and James may have used koine Greek, as the common “trade language” some as well… which would not imply the ability to write good literary Greek.
It is important to understand James as it was written in its original context, the Book of James is a set of principles written for what seems to be a Jewish Christian audience but it is also important to understand that the book was intended for all who inquire it. James inquires that its readers follow this as a guideline as a standard for basic Christian living before the world could be redeemed while Acts displays what it took for the redemption to be completed when sin had entered the world. It is important to read both of these sections in their correct context as before all of this is happening before the return of Christ and is leading up to His crucifixion to redeem all of humanity. Jobes makes the argument that James is written as Jewish Wisdom Literature but has been transposed by Jesus’ teachings (Letters of the Church, 206). Meaning James and Acts coincide with one another in letting us understand the content of the religion in a further context. James seems to be a brief summary of basic principles we are to follow according to His Word while also offering us warnings to steer clear of (James 1, 2, and 3). In order to fully understand how Acts and James coincide with one another I believe it is important that we not only read the context but also read the information presented to us in order as intended for everyone.
From reading this article, as well as other extra-biblical resources, one can see that there is a difference in opinion amongst many scholars in regards to the authorship and date of the book of James. With the discrepancy of dating of James, comes a blurry context for the purpose of the letter of James being written. The book of James predominately speaks of Jewish wisdom, giving an appropriate guidelines for those of Jewish living standards. Evidence that it was written from this time period is presented when James writes “to the twelve tribes scattered among the nations” (1:1), citing when the Christian were persecuted and scattered from Jerusalem. Understanding this context allows one to see that James is writing to the persecuted church scattered by the persecution. Also, it would make further sense when James writes about social justice and providing food and clothing to the poor because of the famine within the first century right after the scattering of the Christians. Jobes disagrees with this, however, because she believes that James is essentially a Q-Document or “served as a pre-synoptic source of Jesus’ teaching for James” (Jobes 159). If this is true, then James is essentially a culmination of previous material and Jesus’ teachings. I don’t believe this to be true because of the previous evidence and context provided. The dating of this makes a difference in our understanding of the letter because of the urgency in which James is writing to the Jews within the persecuted church. This letter also applies to modern day living as well because it speaks truth in regards to wisdom and morality.
I think that having an understanding of the time that James was written is crucial to understanding the the cultural context of the book. The key points that I would like to address would be the social issues that James discusses in great detail. James seems have several points of focus: perseverance in the face of trials and social justice among the Church. Both of these things would fit in the timetable of when James the Just was the head of the Jerusalem church due to the famine and persecution the Jews brought against Christians in the early years of the Church (Jobes pg 154). If we are to consider that it is during these times that James writes his letter than we can clearly understand some of the concerns that James might have, especially with favoritism (James 2:1-13). It would seem to me that if people are poor and prosecuted than making friends with the rich and powerful in the church would be a good way to ease some of the suffering. However this would give the rich an inordinate amount of power within the Church even if they were new believers who still didn’t quite understand the more intricate aspects of the Christian beliefs. While the rich should have been giving money to the poor, they might have been leveraging the gifts for favors or positions. By not looking at the book of James from the historical or cultural perspective of an early written period than we lose out on our understanding of some critical aspects of James. The theology of James is intertwined with the culture and history that James grew up in and readers have a chance of misinterpreting what James wanted us to understand.
I think James’ emphasis on the Law in a few places throughout the letter (mainly in 2:8-13) would mean a lot more to the recipients if it happened before the meeting of the Jerusalem Council and their decisions in Acts 15. James might have felt that as Jews, they would have to keep doing everything according to the Law except that which Jesus abolished in his coming, death, and resurrection. He implored the diaspora to love others, keep charge over their tongue, love and provide for the orphans and the widows, submit themselves to God, and all this in the name of the “royal Law found in the Scriptures” (v. 8). There is also a focus on the social justice for poor and needy people, much like the OT prophets (Jobes 162). So James, whether his teaching recorded here was before Peter’s visions about food or even Paul’s conversion, had a strong attachment to the royal law and saw it as completely necessary.
The question seems to be if James was written before Acts 15 how would that affect how we perceive the letter which there is one obvious answer which is that James is then not writing a response according to what Paul says. I feel like their is a scale between James and Paul, as if they balance each other.James was talking to people who are coming from a background of working to cleans their sins through sacrifices and other rituals. James could be telling them that becoming a Christian is going to be work and that it is not something were one is free from working. I see it as almost in monopoly you get the get out of jail free card through the death and resurrection of Christ, but you still have to work your way around the board till the end. This can cause an issue because people then will start to think that works are what save you when really it is Christ. People were probably getting this mindset, so that is where then Paul comes in. Maybe it is not an argument, so much as it an addition in a different form. Paul puts the mindset back in the right direction for why there is salvation.I feel like if James came after Acts 15 then it is an argument while if it was James first I feel like it balances each other.
In the ESV study bible it speaks about how James is the brother of Jesus and his writings fits better with someone who has the experiences he has had. Also the writing style is Hellenistic which fits him well. The experience that he speaks about through the book fits his shared experiences around the other disciples. The book of James itself fits the writings of someone who would be speaking to the Jews at that time and if it was not James as the writer then he would have to be someone else close to the disciples and Jesus at that time. Which the only ones that would have know each other that well are the disciples since they spent there time together or going out in pairs.
Wellywellys, I don’t have an ESV Study Bible to read what you refer to. But I don’t see how a “Hellenistic” style “fits him well”. If it’s the brother of Jesus writing, we would more expect a Hebrew/Aramaic style, wouldn’t we, even if composed in Greek? I don’t think any scholar suggests a likely composition in Hebrew, lost after translation to Greek. Where would it seem James would have gained a Hellenistic style over against his almost-certain native tongue of Aramaic? (Maybe you meant Hebrew, in that the genre fits a Hebrew one…) My Greek is way too minimal to judge the actual grammar and syntax as particularly non-Greek or not…. I’ve been led to think the Greek here is typical and don’t recall otherwise when I WAS using Greek in seminary many years ago.
But your comment reflects back to my comments well above (1st and 2nd ones) – the idea that, to kick things off for a brother-of-Jesus author, one has to either go somewhat against the Gospels’ setting for the family and the typical Galilean norm of the day, along with biblical and extra-biblical evidence of a VERY “dyed in the wool” and Jewishly loyal “James the Righteous” OR imagine a scenario explaining why and how James would have become a solid writer in Greek… a good literary one, not just able to use “trade” Greek as many Galileans and Judeans apparently did. (Of Paul we expect something different. He was not an original disciple of course. He was clearly both highly intelligent and highly educated, plus raised in the primarily Gentile and hellenized city of Tarsus, if Luke is accurate on this (Acts). Here he probably grew up fully bilingual and reading in Greek as well as Hebrew/Aramaic…. A whole different situation than Galileans like James or Peter, who is credited with 2 NT epistles, traditionally, though seldom so by current scholars.)
I went back and reread the information because I had trouble with reading it before. You are right one of the reasons they believe it is not him is because of the Hellenistic rhetoric is too well done for someone who has supposed to have never left the Palestine area. But being in the time period for him growing up as a youth in an increasingly Hellenistic roman would have influenced his writings. Also, being a Jewish leader he would have been well educated in not only Jewish literature but having been exposed to roman literature as well because of the ruling powers. He is also shown to know Paul well, Paul uses a lot of Hellenistic rhetoric in all of his writings which would have caused an influence in the writings of James. James himself also wrote to many churches and as such would have been able to speak in versatile ways, because of the expanse of not only the area in which the churches resides but also the variety of the population there it would seem almost impossible for him to want or even just be all inclusive with his learning and styles or writing and rhetoric. As such many scholars may argue against him being able to writing in a Hellenistic manner but there is more and more implications that the world, and even the Jewish communities, and other communities were adopting the languages and writing styles of each other. On top of which if you believe James is the one who actually did write the book then you are saying you believe he is well versed in Hellenistic writing make your point mute.
I think knowing who the real author is, as well as when it was written, would affect how we think about the doctrine of Paul. If James was written later, and not by James the brother of Jesus, it could be seen as a letter directly defying Paul, although the date and author are not conclusive enough to prove this either. Jobes points out that they were likely written around the same time, and that neither of them were written to balance or contradict the other. After reading Jobes I tend to agree with this position. First, both letters were written to different people under different circumstances so comparing the content as defying one another really doesn’t work. If they were written to the same group, at the same time, then there is the possibility but the two different groups had different circumstances. I think both statements are true in and of themselves. You can say both things and they can both be correct. Faith is the means to your justification is accurate but faith needs to be defined. Faith is not real if there is no fruit of your labor. Faith needs to be defined, something which James does.
Also, a pseudigraphic work would likely have stated his name, who he was, and many more details because they would have overdone it to prove who it was. James needed no introduction because people knew who he was.
I don’t think we can know the author or date of James for sure. What is quite clear and we CAN be sure of is that there were major tensions and disagreement on the very definition of “the Gospel” between Paul the Jerusalem leaders, as personified particularly in James (more than Peter). The way it’s worded is cautious (even in Galatians, where Paul is adamant, forceful) and one has to spend some time reading carefully and comparing between Paul and Acts. But even Acts, particularly the latter chapters re. Paul’s final visit there and the “collection for the saints” [in Jerusalem], makes it clear that James remained loyal to the Temple and the Torah and Paul did not. Paul didn’t even rely at all on the earthly life and teachings of Jesus, as James certainly did, along with his brother’s basic approach to the Law.
It also appears (espec. Acts 21:21 ff.) that James didn’t even know for sure just WHAT Paul was teaching. To see things like this and other critical factors, one has to read Luke’s accounts in Acts discerningly, as he clearly is being very selective and leaving important points OUT of the picture as much as he feels he can get away with. (And history, unfortunately, has confirmed that for most people, he could get away with it.)
Reblogged this on Talmidimblogging.
Last line of main article: “effect” should be “affect”
P. Long writes an interesting and helpful blog in understanding many different factors when considering the authorship of James such as the many people with the name of James, the use of Q, and how timeline affects how we understand the book of James. Growing up in Church and during my time at Grace Christian University, I continued to learn the common opinion that Paul and James are counter to each other. P. Long touches upon this aspect that James is often considered to be counter to the Pauline literature circulating during that period of time of the early church. Most popular in this topic is the differentiating ways by which Paul and James discuss works of the Law, Paul stating saved by faith (Eph. 2:8) whereas James states faith without works is dead (James 2:17).
If the book of James is written around the same time as the gospels or previous to them and thus previous to Acts 15, the way we understand the book of James quickly changes. If James is is written as early as the Mid-40s as Jobes suggests, than how we understand the theology within James takes a new form and context (P. 159). Instead of contradicting Pauline theology, James can be viewed as an extremely early piece of theology to those Jewish Christians who have converted but no longer understand how to live out their faith. No matter the date,and including another information, the realization must be made that James and Paul write to different audiences of Jewish and Gentile Christians, thus why we may see differences in theology
The fact that this is the second book in the Jewish Christian literature section of the Bible, it blows me away that yet another book is accused of being without an author. If this was truly a psuedigraphic letter, then wouldn’t it have included information on James, other than just stating the brother or Jesus. To me the letters both served different purposes to their readers. We cannot compare the two letters, even though they are classified under the same literature style. Each letter served a different purpose. Although Paul and James are found to be opposites cannot be compared due to their literary meanings, but rather compared by messages in my opinion. The only thing that seems to be similar is the idea that both passages within this Jewish Christian literature is that both authors mention the idea of faith. Having faith seems to be the most important topic within these books, is a act of justification in believing in the things you can’t see. To me the authorship seems to not affect what we get from the passage, but rather the implications of the passage to the present readers.
As we learned through the book of Hebrews that finding out who the real author of the book is, we come across another book that again we have our doubts on who the actual author is. Based off the reading from this book I have done I notice and so does this article that there are a lot of memories, and specific ideas that only the person following Jesus would’ve known and much less written down. Based off this idea I believe that James the follower of Jesus was indeed the author. Another reason that this article states that there are doubts on the author is that the evidence relating to Paul and his books are off. Well if James is writing about different themes and ideas there always going to be different. No one can tell all of the same details of something that another person described as well. It’s the point of the person and the experience that they have also gone through. Each thing is perceived differently and I think that this is important to remember as we doubt and try to figure out exactly who wrote this book.
The authorship of James is a rather interesting subject that has some debate surrounding it. Personally, I have always taken the view that James, the half-brother of Jesus and the full brother of Jude wrote this letter. However, Jobes’ writing makes examine that view objectively and ensures that even if that is where I end up, I know how to better defend this James as the author of this letter.
Jobes looks at a variety of men named James that are mentioned during the time of Jesus’ ministry (151). Of this list that Jobes writes, the least likely seems to be James the brother of John (151). This James being the author of the letter is doubted because he died a martyr in A.D. 44 (Jobes, 152). His untimely death leads biblical scholars to believe that he was not the author, but rather it was James the half brother of Jesus (Jobes, 152). James, the half brother of Jesus, was known by the Jerusalem church as “James the Just” (Jobes, 152). It is unlikely that this title was wide known at the time he wrote the letter, so to call himself “James the Just” in his letter may have been meaningless to the original audience (Jobes, 151).
In view of this knowledge, it is very likely that James the Just was the author of this letter. An important thing that should be noted is that with this James as the author, he neither makes an attempt to “balance” Paul’s teaching nor contradict it. More so, his purpose has nothing to do with Paul, rather in showing the Jewish Christians spread around the Roman world how they should live as followers of Christ. James’ authority would be greatly helpful in making his words authoritative, rather than if it was coming from someone who the audience would not have had knowledge of.
I have to say the letter of James gives us an understanding of the ethical basis of Christian living. It gives us understanding in the context of relationship James (as Jesus sibling)have with Jesus and the signifiance his life and the role he plays in the church (Jobes 147). It also gives us the context of the new covenant in Christ and the old covenant through the Law by Moses, Jesus fulfilling the law. In this letter we can see the moral and ethical issues of social injustice. This letter can remind us about the commandant law of loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and the same goes to loving our neighbor as we love ourselves. The Royal law, some may say it’s the Golden rule, is not base on emotion reaction, but literally to respect with a sense of dignity. Wisdom is use in this letter to give us an example to live the life highest good (Jobes 162). Traditionally, the fear of the Lord is the beginning wisdom, thus in obeying his commandments and following his instructions (Torah Law). I say, this letter is important for all believers of Christ Jesus and basic instructions of living a faithful one, not done by works, but with the reverence of the Lord and the love he calls for us to have towards others. How historically it may have its complexities of whom wrote it? when it was written? Etc, it is still needed for us to give observation in such details that we should not be confused nor be trouble. James, being a leader in Jerusalem, knowing The Torah ins and outs of it, the cultural of the environment during his time, all played an important piece to the purpose of writing such letter, for those then and for us now.
Some of the books of the Bible coincidently have the same name and author. As a child, I began to believe that this was the case for every book. It was not until I was older that I began to understand this deeper and the idea that just because a book is named James, it may not be James who wrote the book. We should not be assuming biblical history, we should be doing deeper research into the truth that God has laid out before us. Sometimes, there are still mysteries, but how would we continue to grow in our love for God without new knowledge to learn and theorize?
When looking at the book of James, we look into the authorship of James. It is interesting that James does not directly specify who he is. A thought I had was if he was, in fact, the brother of Jesus, then he probably did not because of the comparison. I like to think I am the only one in the world to get compared to my siblings, but it happens in every family. I could not imagine having Jesus as my brother, James would have never gotten anything right compared to him. Although James would have known and understood the amazing work Jesus was doing, it does not change those inner temptations of our own pride.
Again, we cannot assume that this was the case, so we look to the Bible for evidence. In comparison to James’ teaching in Acts 15, we see several parallels (Jobes, 153). The time frame can roughly put James in place as well, as we see famine and a variety of social justice that correlate. Overall there is evidence for the book of James being written by James, Jesus’ brother.
I find these discussions regarding the authorship of various letters and books of the Bible to be fascinating, intriguing, and incredibly significant. Early on during my time at Grace Christian University, when I heard that the author of a specific book or letter in the Bible was not completely known or agreed on, I would tend to just read along and not really give a second thought about it. Luckily, I have grown out of that stage, and these discussions have become intriguing and important to me. Why are they so important now? What caused this shift in my thinking and focus in regards to these discussions? Understanding the author of a book, especially one in the Bible, is critical to understanding the full context of the book and the words of the book. After undergoing a careful study of Pauline literature last semester, I really caught up on how writer tendencies and theology can become evident. As we progressed through the course, it became easier and easier to understand Paul and his letters because I was getting accustomed to his writing, his tone, and his theology. Therefore, understanding the writer of the book of James is incredibly important in my eyes as a Bible student, so I appreciate posts like these.
The fact that the brother of Jesus may be the writer of the book of James is also incredibly important. This is clear because of his familial connection to the Lord Jesus Christ. This offers a deeper look and deeper connection for the audience. After reading the text from Jobes, as well as the book of James, I am under the impression that James, the brother of Jesus, is the writer of this book in the Bible. This blog post claims that this is “the traditional view,” and I agree with that sentiment. Some may claim that the fact that the author of James does not claim his familial relationship to Jesus Christ means that it probably was not the brother of James who wrote the book. Jobes (2011) and I disagree with this statement, for Jobes claims that James would not have felt the necessity to claim his familial relationship to Jesus because the audience would have already known and understood this. James was a popular and familiar leader of the Jerusalem church (Jobes, 2011). Therefore, he would have not needed to list his relationship and brotherhood with Jesus Christ. Though it would have been convenient for us today, it was not necessary at the time, so this should not be a point that is used against the authorship of the brother of Jesus Christ.
I also agree with the point in the blog post that claims that what we know about James from Pauline letters matches with the book of James in the Bible. I agree with that from my understanding and studying of the Pauline letters in the course of Pauline Literature and Theology. After reading Jobes (2011) and this blog post, I definitely understand the counterpoints against the authorship of James, the brother of Jesus. However, I am not convinced of the other James’ in the Bible being the author of this book either. To answer the question at the end of the blog post, the idea that the letter from James goes against Pauline theology would be looked at differently if it was written before Acts 15, for Acts 15 from the Apostle Paul would not have been out yet. Therefore, the letter of James would not be viewed as so counter-intuitive to the theology of Paul, for it would not have understood the theology of Paul to this point.
Jobes, K. (2011). Letters to the Church. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
According the internal evidence that presented by Jobes, it is quite evident that the book of James was without a doubt written by James the Just, one of the twelve disciple of Jesus; who was also the leader of the Jerusalem church. Apostle Peter was in Jerusalem with James the Just prior to the death of James, which indicate that Peter was aware of the leadership of James in Jerusalem, and left for another place after the death of James the Just. This portion alone clearly represent James of Jerusalem, who was also a half brother of Jesus as the author of the book of James. Also, James usage of language in the epistle make serval similarities style of speech in Acts 15;, as Jobes quoted, “James language in this epistle has serval parallels with the speech of James as found in Acts 15:23-29.” Therefore, it is crucial that we give a solid rich treatment to this epistle, we should not be double-minded and diminish the texts just because we are not certain about the author. Although we can’t provided a solid evidence on the authorship of this epistle, we can be certain the texts itself reflect a Christian theology that is not contradictories to the Bible or Pauline theology. The texts itself is inspire and accepted into the New Testament canon in the fourth century.
The Bible has a purpose to equip us, to share the Gospel with others. Yet each book of the Bible has a different message, background, culture, audience, and author. Having another debate about whether James has an author or who is the author should not matter. We should care more about the equipping that the book shows us, just like any other book. “Wisdom is the revelation of God’s truth that enables the believer to know how to pass the testing of faith, and it is wisdom’s way to lead the believer through such testing and ultimately into God’s future blessings” (Jobes, ebook). I believe that the Bible does just this, it allows us to have a revelation of wisdom that God provides and we are to take it and run with it. Knowing who writes what books are dandy, but knowing the context, audience, and background of where it was written is in my opinion better. Reading Acts 15 should not change the way we view the book of James. They were written in different places and for different reasons. They both have a different purpose and audience, and should not be compared in my honest opinion.
Every book in the Bible whose author is not specifically mentioned starts a debate about who it could or could not be. Some have suggested that James the brother of Jesus wrote this book and yet others heavily dispute this. When it gets to the end of the day I do not think that it really matters who wrote James because we know that all scripture is God-breathed. In other words, who wrote the book of John is not a primary issue when it comes to lead unbelievers to Jesus. Every book in the Bible has an author with a different background, life story, and writing style but all that being said God is the true author of the Bible speaking to the authors with the Holy Spirit. So whether Jesus’ brother wrote the book or not it really does not matter because God’s word is without error and the truth of it no matter what human author wrote it will stand forever. If God wanted us to know specifically who wrote the book of James he would have told us. For now, we just need to trust God and in the inherency of his word.
One way that this would affect our understanding is as it relates to the writings of Paul. As Jobes says, if this book was written before AD 62, “then there is no reason to believe that what James says about faith and works was necessarily written in direct engagement with Paul’s writings” (p. 155). This is important because there may be some concern that what James says here is contradictory to what Paul says in his letters. James 2:14 says, “so also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” This could be implied to mean that in order for one to truly be a Christian, they must do certain works to prove that. And in Romans 8:28, Paul says, “For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.” This could be interpreted as saying that nothing you do matters, as long as you have faith.
However, Jobes points out that if the book of James was written by James the Just, and so before AD 62, these two passages would not be in utter disagreement. Instead, Jobes argues that “the relationship between faith in Christ and the works of the law as they had been practiced in Jewish tradition would have been a relevant topic for any Jewish Christian… (p. 155). In other words, these passages in James would not be written as an argument against Paul’s teachings, but rather they were written to a Jewish audience who would have spent their whole lives learning that works are the most important thing for salvation, and so they would have to learn the aspect of faith to go along with those works. Whereas Paul was writing to a Gentile audience who did not grow up following the law.
Jobes also points out that “James does not mention circumcision at all” (p. 155), which was the main issue that Paul dealt with. Had James been written as a dialogue with Paul’s teachings, it seems that this topic would have been mentioned.
After reading how Jobes discussed the authorship of the Book of James I have to agree that James does fit the best as the author. I believe given the historical context of the book it was probably written before Acts. One of the reasons I feel this way is spoken about on page 155. Jobes addresses the fact that James does not write about the question of whether Gentiles need to become Jewish before converting to Christianity. This is an excellent point. At the time, this was a very hot button topic that was being addressed and it was important for people to have an opinion on the matter. It seems like if this book was written at or after the time that these questions arose, the author would most likely address this. Jobes also addresses the similarities in James and Matthew as a possible clue in when this book was written. As you mention Jobes references the Q as a possible reason for James to have the same information and influence on the writing. Jobes explains that there was a possible common writing or teaching that both Matthew and James would have utilized to write their books. Jobes leaned in on the possibility that James may have been one of the earliest New Testament books based on these similarities.
If I’m being honest I have never questioned the authorship of James, I believe that I always assumed that it was James the Just, brother of Jesus. The book of Hebrews often gets most of the authorship questions, therefore I had never really devoted any energy or study into who wrote James, it seemed obvious enough. One thing I failed to realize however, was the number of “James” throughout the New Testament. According to Jobes, 2011, there are four of five differ men “James” could refer to, and the name itself is mentioned over forty times. There were some men Jobes referenced that I had mistakenly confused for the others, so overall my understanding was deeper. There seems to be the most evidence that James the Just, brother of Jesus, is the likely author. This influences how we read James in a number of ways. James being the leader of the Jerusalem church was obviously writing to the Jewish converts at that time. I find it interesting that there is more attention to works throughout the letter. In comparison to Paul, James talks about the fruit of a Christin more than the grace aspect. This is important to understand in the context of the audience. I believe this makes sense, when looking at the Jewish history with law and keeping the works based religious practices. James makes a point the works are still important, not as salvation, but as the fruit of the grace that God has shown. It would be easy as a Jewish Christian at that time to grow resentful to the laws and works that keep them captive for so long. James points out that these works are out of a free and worshipful attitude towards God’s grace.
Jobes, K. H. (2011). Letters to the Church: A Survey of Hebrews and the General Epistles. Zondervan.
I agree that the book of James was written by James the Just and that the verses in James could have been written to a Jewish audience since James was the leader of the Jewish congregation (Jobes, 387). That would build up their belief from their childhood of how works are the most important thing to their salvation because they grew up learning that. The difference between Paul and James writing is their audiences. James wrote to Jewish audience and Paul wrote to the Gentiles who didn’t grow up learning or following the law. I think that it could go both ways depending how you grew up and how you were raised. Jobes gives a few different points that this can be looked at with support from when other books of the Bible were written like Galatians or Romans (P. Long). I also agree with P Long that in the earlier days when the Bible was written there were a lot of Jewish Christians being led by James until Paul started his missionary in the 40s.
Although there may be big controversy about who maybe wrote the book of James, we know that with the same controversy that we saw in Hebrews, we can date it back to the times when James was the leader of the Jewish church. This makes some scholars believe that James was the writer of his own letter as the brother of Jesus. There are four books in the Bible that contain letters from what are considered the “Pillars of the Church” which would be framed by the two letters written by the brothers of Jesus. The traditional view of the book is that James was not the original author of the letter. While reading through the book there is no evidence that points out James as the author. Allison also makes a point that the letter of James actually misses the point of what Paul’s theology is trying to teach us. It seems that nobody really can come to a conclusion that every scholar has a different perspective on the book of James and who the author really is which gives us no clear idea of who it may actually be.
To me, the most interesting piece of speculation regarding the authorship of James is centered on the fact that the book is heavily involved in Jewish tradition. All Jewish-Christian literature is written to an audience of devout Jews, but James is considered by some to be the “bishop of Jerusalem”, or the pastor of pastors in Jerusalem. It is supposed that James’s identity as the brother of Jesus was well known to the point that no introduction would be required. However, if the author were indeed James the brother of Jesus, would he not have included this fact to an audience so keen on identifying each other’s authority based on genealogy. This could evidence the conclusion that the author of James was not, in fact, the historical James of the first century.
I think it is amazing that a man who grew up with Jesus Christ, who had known him all his life and had once oppose him, would now address Jesus Christ as the Lord Jesus Christ. James wrote with reverence, respect and honor for the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. It’s a tremendously powerful and practical message from someone who not only had seen and heard the Lord Jesus but had known him as a child.
In the class note, it was very interesting for me that, in the original Greek of the New Testament, the name Jacob and James are variants of the same root both names stem from the same Hebrew name, which is translated Jacob throughout the Old Testament. We know from the book of Jobes that Jacob was a common name in Jesus’ day, and many people named their son after the patriarch.
The Bible teach us that, Jesus had two disciples named James: James the son of Zebedee and James the son of Alphaeus. Another James, the half-brother of Jesus, was never one of the twelve disciples but was a leader in the early church of Jerusalem (Acts 15:13) and wrote the epistle of James. James is still Jerusalem when the recently converted Saul arrives to meet with him and Peter (Galatians 1:19).
When we look the Bible background and James letter it was clearly seen that James is the author of the epistle of James, which he wrote somewhere between A.D. 50 AND A.D. 60. James identifies himself by name but simply describes himself as a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ (James 1:1). His letter deals more with Christian ethics than Christian theology.