The letter from James is “a one-of-a-kind document”, according to scholar and commentator Scot McKnight, with “no real parallel among ancient letters, essays, and homilies.”
It is a letter that addresses numerous topics, many of which underlie the tensions behind the headlines today, including suffering, social justice, and poverty. It also contains some challenging passages related to the role of faith and works.
Here are 5 interesting facts as we start our study.
1) It was probably written by the brother of Jesus
James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ (1:1)
Most scholars (at least those writing evangelical commentaries) agree that the author of this letter is James the brother of Jesus (Matt 13:55; Mark 6:3; Gal 1:19), also known as James the Just. Another candidate is James, the son of Zebedee, the older brother of John, and an apostle in Jesus’ inner circle (Matt 17:1; Mark 5:37, 14:32-33). Many rule out the latter James, due to his early death at the hands of Herod Agrippa I (Acts 12:2) around 44 CE. But that shouldn’t disqualify him. James the son of Zebedee would have been alive to write the letter if the earliest suggested dating of the letter is correct.
The primary reason for accepting James the Just as the author, over other possible candidates, is the tradition of the early church, which attributed the letter to him. Continue reading