Epistle of James

Epistle of James

The Epistle of James is a book in the Christian New Testament. The author identifies himself as "James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ", traditionally understood as James the Just, the brother of Jesus (see Authorship and Composition).

Framed within an overall theme of patient perseverance during trials and temptations, the text condemns various sins and calls on Christians to be patient while awaiting the Second Coming.

The epistle has caused controversy: Protestant reformer Martin Luther argued that it was not the work of an apostle. [ [http://www.wels.net/sab/qa/luther-03.html WELS Q&A] [http://www.bible-researcher.com/antilegomena.html Luther's Treatment of the 'Disputed Books' of the New Testament] ] Roman Catholicism [ [http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/_P66.HTM Catechism of the Catholic Church at vatican.va] : "1815 The gift of faith remains in one who has not sinned against it. But "faith apart from works is dead": [Jas 2:26] when it is deprived of hope and love, faith does not fully unite the believer to Christ and does not make him a living member of his Body."] , Eastern Orthodoxy [see Synod of Jerusalem, [http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/creeds1.v.vii.html Schaff's "Creeds of Christendom" Synod of Jerusalem] : "Article XIII.—Man is justified, not by faith alone, but also by works."] and Mormonism [See also Perfection (Latter Day Saints)] claim it contradicts Luther's doctrine of "justification through faith alone" (Sola fide), which Luther derived from his translation of The letter does mention persecutions in the present tense (2:6), and this is consistent with the persecution in Jerusalem during which James the Great was martyred (Acts 12:1). However, some challenge the early date on the basis of some of the letter’s content, which they interpret to be a clarification of St. Paul’s teachings on justification found in his Epistle to the Romans, written "c." 54.Fact|date=April 2007 If written by James the Great, the location would have also been Jerusalem, sometime before 45.Fact|date=April 2007

Lastly, many scholars consider the epistle to be written in the late first or early second centuries, after the death of James the Just. Among the reasons for this are: [ [http://earlychristianwritings.com/james.html Epistle of James ] ]
* the author introduces himself merely as "a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ", without invoking any special family relationship to Jesus.
* the cultured Greek language of the Epistle, it is contended, could not have been written by a Jerusalemite Jew. This argument has lost much force as recent insight into Greek influence on Judea at the time has come to light. It is plausible that the letter in Greek to the Jewish diaspora could have been composed with a secretary, as Jerome argued. Some scholars argue for a primitive version of the letter composed by James and then later polished by another writer. [Oxford Bible Commentary p.1256, Oxford University Press 2001]
* the author fails to mention Jewish ritual requirements such as circumcision, whereas James the Just is known from Galatians and the Acts of the Apostles to have been particularly concerned with ministering to the Jewish and circumcised (however, since it is addressed to a Jewish audience, such requirements would naturally be taken for granted; "moreover, the Epistle could have been written before the end of Paul's First Missionary Journey (46-48 AD), when the inclusion of gentiles first became an issue").Fact|date=June 2007
* the author fails to mention any details of Jesus's life (however, the doctrines resemble Jesus's own doctrines as recorded in the Gospels, more than Paul's doctrines).Fact|date=June 2007
* the epistle was only gradually accepted into the (non-Jewish) canon of the New Testament.
*Some see parallels between James and 1 Peter, 1 Clement, and the Shepherd of Hermas and take this to reflect the socio-economic situation Christians were dealing with in the late first or early second century. It thus could have been written anywhere in the Empire where Christians spoke Greek. There are some scholars who argued for Syria. [ Oxford Bible Commentary p.1256, Oxford University Press 2001]


The Epistle was definitely quoted by Origen of Alexandria, and possibly a bit [http://www.ntcanon.org/Irenaeus.shtml earlier] by Irenaeus of Lyons [ Grant, Robert M. The Formation of the New Testament. New York: Harper & Row, 1965.p. 155, there are two possible allusions to James in "Adversus Haereses". They are in 4.16.2 (James 2:23) and 5.1.1 (James 1:18,22)] as well as Clement of Alexandria in a lost work according to Eusebius.

The Epistle of James was included among the 27 New Testament books first listed by Athanasius of Alexandria and was confirmed as a canonical epistle of the New Testament by a series of councils in the fourth century. Today, virtually all denominations of Christianity consider this book to be a canonical epistle of the New Testament. See Biblical canon

In the first centuries of the Church the authenticity of the Epistle was doubted by some, and amongst others by Theodore, Bishop of Mopsuestia in Cilicia; it is therefore deuterocanonical. It is missing in the Muratorian fragment, and because of the silence of several of the western churches regarding it, Eusebius classes it amongst the Antilegomena or contested writings ("Historia ecclesiae", 3.25; 2.23). St. Jerome gives a similar appraisal but adds that with time it had been universally admitted. Gaius Marius Victorinus, in his commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians, openly questioned whether the teachings of James were heretical.

Its late recognition in the Church, especially in the West, may be explained by the fact that it was written for or by Jewish Christians, and therefore not widely circulated among the Gentile Churches. There is some indication that a few groups distrusted the book because of its doctrine. In Reformation times a few theologians, most notably Martin Luther, argued that this epistle was too defective to be part of the canonical New Testament. [Luther famously called it an "Epistle of Straw"] This is probably due to the book's specific teaching that faith alone is not enough for salvation (bibleref|James|2:24), which seemed to contradict Luther's doctrine of sola fide (faith alone). [Philip Schaff's [http://www.ccel.org/s/schaff/history/7_ch04.htm History of the Christian Church, book 7, chapter 4] "The Protestant Spirit of Luther’s Version" states::The most important example of dogmatic influence in Luther’s version is the famous interpolation of the word "alone" in Rom. 3:28 (allein durch den Glauben), by which he intended to emphasize his solifidian doctrine of justification, on the plea that the German idiom required the insertion for the sake of clearness. But he thereby brought Paul into direct verbal conflict with James, who says (James 2:24), "by works a man is justified, and not only by faith" ("nicht durch den Glauben allein"). It is well known that Luther deemed it impossible to harmonize the two apostles in this article, and characterized the Epistle of James as an "epistle of straw," because it had no evangelical character ("keine evangelische Art").]



The letter contains the following famous passage concerning salvation and justification::“What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? …You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only…? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” (James 2:14, 24, 26)

This passage has been cited in Christian theological debates, especially against the Protestant doctrine of Justification by faith alone. Gaius Marius Victorinus (4th century) associated James' teaching on works with the heretical Symmachian sect, followers of Symmachus the Ebionite, and openly questioned whether James' teachings were heretical. This passage has also been contrasted with the teachings of Paul of Tarsus, especially in his Epistle to the Romans (see Romans 3:28). One issue in the debate is the proper rendering of the Greek δικαιωθηναι (dikaiōthēnai). But see also New Perspective on Paul.

Anointing of the Sick

James' epistle is also the chief Biblical text for the Anointing of the Sick. James wrote:: "Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. And their prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make them well. And anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven." (5:14,15).

ee also

*Pauline Christianity
*Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification
*Sola fide
*Old Testament#Christian view of the Law
*Biblical canon


External links

Online translation of the Epistle of James:

* [http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08275b.htm Catholic Encyclopedia: Epistle of St. James] : "Luther strongly repudiated the Epistle as "a letter of straw", and "unworthy of the apostolic Spirit", and this solely for dogmatic reasons, and owing to his preconceived notions, for the epistle refutes his heretical doctrine that Faith alone is necessary for salvation. ... For the question of apparent opposition between St. James and St. Paul with regard to "faith and works" see EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS."
* [http://jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=146&letter=J&search=Epistle%20of%20James Jewish Encyclopedia: JAMES, GENERAL EPISTLE OF] : "It has been assumed by most New Testament exegetes that these observations refer to Paul's doctrine concerning justification by faith, a doctrine which also is based upon Gen. xv. 6 (see Rom. iv. 3; Gal. iii. 6), but which is contradicted by James."
* [http://encyclopedia.jrank.org/INV_JED/JAMES_EPISTLE_OF.html 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica: James, Epistle of]
* [http://weekendfisher.blogspot.com/2007/03/marius-victorinus-and-teachings-of.html Marius Victorinus and the Teachings of James]
* [http://earlychristianwritings.com/james.html Early Christian Writings: The Epistle of James]
* [http://www.cin.org/users/james/files/james2.htm "Justification in James 2"] - a Catholic interpretation by James Akin
* [http://www.nccbuscc.org/nab/bible/james/intro.htm NAB Introduction to James]
* [http://www.new-testament-christian.com/james.html Sermons on James] - texts of sermons on James by famous Protestant preachers John Piper (theologian), John F. MacArthur, J. Ligon Duncan and Charles Spurgeon.

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