Sunday, July 16, 2006


Introduction: The letter of James is only a letter by name. It is really more of a sermon. In this sermon, James calls for joy in suffering, persevering faith, the pursuit of wisdom, reception of the Word, pure religion, submission to the law of Christ, faith that works, taming of the tongue, intimacy with God, repentance of sins, patience, and prayers of faith. With such an eclectic mix of themes, it is hard to follow James thoughts at times, but through careful study and prayer we can find our way through this important letter, and reach the end of the means, the salvation of our souls which is the result of receiving the Word. Let's follow James' advice and ask God for wisdom so that we may rightly discern what the Spirit says to the churches.
I. Authorship
A. Which James?
1. The father of Judas Acts 1:13 and Luke 6:16
2. The son of Alphaeus Acts 1:13 and Luke 6:15
3. The son of Zebedee and brother of John martyred around a. d. 44
4. The half-brother of Jesus, leader of the Jerusalem church
B. Early Life
Matthew 13:55, John 7:1-5, I Corinthians 15:1-9
C. Position
Acts 12:17, 15:13-21, Galatians 1:19, 2:9, 12
II. Date
A. James martyred around A. D. 62
B. Before Jerusalem Council Around A. D. 49-50 Acts 15
C. After Stephen's Martyrdom around A. D. 35 Acts 6, 7
D. Paul's preaching around A. D. 36
1. James and Paul agreed on justification
2. James probably interacts with a distortion of Paul's preaching, not recognizing it's origin
3. James' position is complimentary to what Paul taught
E. 44-48 a. d.
III. Recipients
A. Eschatological Nature Of The Term, 'The Twelve Tribes'
1. The Assyrian captivity and remnant of the ten northern tribes
2. The restoration of Israel
3. Two fulfillments
a. A literal fulfillment Romans 11:25-27
b. A fulfillment in the Church represented by the twelve Apostles and the 144,000 in Revelation 7:3-8 and 14:1-5
B. The 'Diaspora'
C. Unbelieving Jews?
IV. Jesus and James
A. A servant of the Lord Jesus Christ
B. Jesus is King
C. Jesus the new lawgiver
D. Parallels between James and the Sermon on the Mount
Conclusion: The author of the letter is James, the brother of Jesus and 'Pastor' or the Jerusalem church. The letter is probably the earliest Christian writing included in the canon. As it's early date suggests, the main audience are believing Jews who had come to faith in Christ in Jerusalem, and then had both returned home after Pentecost, and had been scattered out away from Palestine because of persecution. These early Jewish Christians probably continued to attend their synagogues where they would come into contact with unbelievers. This letter would have been read among those assemblies. James' letter then served two purposes. First, to exhort believing Jews to persevere in their faith and obedience to the 'perfect law of liberty', and second, to call unbelieving Jews to faith in Christ, the new lawgiver, and repentance of their sins.


Blogger kec said...

Any thoughts as to why neither Calvin nor Luther attributed the authorship to James, the elder in Jerusalem?

4:11 PM  
Blogger Jeremy Weaver said...

As best I understand it, you can correct me on some of my facts if they are inaccurate, here's what I think about it.

Although Calvin leans more towards James the son of Alphaeus for the authorship of the letter, he does not rule the leader of the Jerusalem church out completely.

Luther's comments on the letter are well known. He seems to reject the entire letter in his early ministry and then later grudgingly accept it as profitable, but on a level somewhat less than the rest of Apostolic writings, stating that it lacked Apostolic authority. In this lack of Apostolic authority he rules out James the Just because he held him to be an Apostle. In Luther's case, at least, I think his commitment to the perpetual virginity of Mary under Jerome's theory coupled with his view that the letter was not written by an Apostle hindered him from seeing that James the Just could well have been the author.

Calvin, on the other hand did not believe in the perpetual virginity of Mary and did not hesitate to attribute the letter to an Apostle, which is probably why he leaned more towards James the son of Alphaeus as the author rather than James the Just since there was some debate concerning his Apostleship.

Based on the early date required by the letter (the writer uses the word 'synagogue' to describe the normal meeting place for his audience and the debate on justification seems to be in it's formative stages), the status of James the Just in the Jerusalem Church, and the testimony of the earliest sources (Origen and Clement), it is my opinion that it is entirely reasonable to attribute the authorship of the letter to James the Just, Elder of the Jerusalem Church, half-brother of Jesus.

5:24 PM  

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