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The Epistle of James.
pp. 121 - 126
This epistle is one of a group of seven generally known as General or Catholic epistles
because they were not addressed to any particular church. In our A.V. they come in the
order of the Latin Vulgate and many of the Greek manuscripts, and it is interesting to
know that they are often found as a whole along with the Acts of the Apostles, for they
have a direct bearing on the period covered by the Acts. The authorship of the epistle has
been often debated, as James was a common name in the N.T. times and there are three in
the N.T.: James, the son of Zebedee, James, the son of Alphaeus (called the Less or
Little), and James, the brother of the Lord.
We can rule out James, the son of Zebedee, by reason of the fact that he as put to
death by Herod Agrippa I in the year 44 and it is well nigh impossible to date the epistle
as early as this. As for James the son of Alphaeus we know little about him and there is
no evidence that the epistle was ever assigned to him in the early church. We can have
much more confidence in taking the Lord's brother, as the author of the epistle. He heads
the list of four men who are described as the Lord's brothers in Matt. 13: 55 and he
became the leader of the mother church of Hebrew Christians at Jerusalem. He is
mentioned first in Gal. 2: 9.
It would seem that James became a true believer after the resurrection when the Lord
appeared to him (I Cor. 15: 5, 7) and soon became the recognized leader at Jerusalem,
and Gal. 2: makes it clear that he was `a pillar' of the church. After Peter was
miraculously released from prison, he bade his friends give a report of all that had
happened `to James and to the brethren' (Acts 12: 17). When Paul made his first visit to
Jerusalem after his conversion, to visit Peter, he saw none of the other apostles "save
James the Lord's brother" (Gal. 1: 19). This must have been a visit of outstanding
importance to the Apostle Paul, for he could learn much of the Lord's earthly life and
witness from Peter and further than this, intimate details of His home life from James.
Those who `came down from Judaea' (Acts 15: 1) and taught that circumcision was
necessary to salvation, may not have accurately reflected the teaching of James, but it
seems evident that at the first he did not encourage Jewish and Gentile believers to eat
together, for there was a strong possibility that the Gentiles, lately converted from
paganism, would not adhere to the strong O.T. regulations regarding food, and so they
would cause offence and division. This explains Gal. 2: 12 where `certain came from
James', that is from Jerusalem church and found Peter eating with Gentiles. The fear of
man came in here and we are told Peter withdrew himself from them.
James obviously presided over the conference at Jerusalem recorded in Acts 15:
which was called together to consider the terms of admission of Gentile converts to the
Jewish church in order that all friction might be avoided. James' words, "my judgment
is" (Acts 15: 19) shows the authority he possessed and it was in his name and that of the