The general opinion of theologians and interpreters is that the author of this letter is unknown. The fact that many may assume it was written by James, the Apostle and Jesus' brother, is pure conjecture. Of the three James' who have been considered as authors, the most generally accepted was, as noted, James the Lord's brother.
The author, however, remains anonymous as do the readers to whom the letter was sent. There is no formal dedication, nor is it addressed to anyone other than, "...the twelve tribes in the dispersion." (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 12: Page 3)
James, in the text we have today, is the work of a Christian author, whose training was Hellenistic but whose religious background was Hebrew. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 12: Page 5)
One thing is certain, that in every respect, this letter denounces that which Paul was teaching about the Law and about faith. It is extraordinary that we know from Paul's letters that circumcision is an argument against which he fought constantly. His stand was that Gentile believers should not be forced to this custom in order to join the 'church.'
Yet in Acts, after the meeting in which Timothy was circumcised, no such demand was made of the Gentiles. Paul goes on about it constantly, and yet Luke advises us that only four requirements were necessary for the Gentiles to enter the church with the Jews.
"But as for the Gentiles who have believed, we have sent a letter with our judgment that they should abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from unchastity." (Acts 21: 25; RSV)
We know from the letters we have already covered that Paul immediately found fault with this reasoning too, and took the elders of Jerusalem, including the Apostles, to task. This also explains his instruction concerning eating meat offered to idols, which was diametrically opposed to the Apostles' edict.
His creation of a Communion meal, in which the blood of Jesus became a principal part, was also in violation of the agreement. Obviously he did these things to oppose the Jerusalem Church and the Apostles.
One must understand that Paul did not want these issues settled. Without them he had nothing to instigate his captive congregations against the mother church or the Apostles. If, as fact shows us, the disciples had already given in to compromise, it was to Paul's advantage to make it appear as though they had not.
Of course, the reports that came back to the Jerusalem Church were so confounding that the disciples would not believe that Paul had wandered so far from proper conduct and instruction.
"You see, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed; they are all zealous for the law, and they have been told about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or observe the customs. What then is to be done?" (Acts 21:20-22; RSV)
Paul bowed to the decision of the Elders and went through the ritual purification. But they need not have worried, Paul was not about to keep any vow, for it seems that nothing was sacred to this man. When his missionary journeys continued, he immediately pressed the congregations to follow 'his gospel' as we have already seen.
The converted Jews cannot believe the reports that Paul has taught Jewish converts to forsake the Law. To prove that these accusations are lies, he agrees to show publicly that there is nothing to what his enemies have been saying about him. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 12: Page 7)
Paul lied to the Apostles and the Elders without blinking an eye. We know what he was doing through his own written word. Until the time came that his organization was strong enough, he dared not admit the truth. And after having taken the vows necessary in the, Rite of Cleansing, no small matter to the Jews, and at a distance from the authorities in Jerusalem, he continued his work of undermining the true faith.
The concession of the Apostles and the elders of the Jerusalem Church is hard to believe, but for the Gentiles, they would need only follow the four conditions asked of them. With these items alone, "...Gentiles might be regarded as inheritors of salvation." (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 12: Page 7)
Where is Paul's continuing struggle with the Jerusalem Church? It would seem that the "problems" he is facing are being contrived by Paul himself, for the church had already conceded to his wishes. No commitment to the Law, no circumcision, no observance of tradition for any of the Gentile converts. Is Paul now insisting that this must also be true for the Jews? More struggle, more contention, because he cannot exist without it. And if none is forthcoming, he will invent it if only to continue his attack on the Apostles.
Paul's reasoning and Paul's mentality are understood by no one. And far be it for this student to pass judgment, but his intentions were understood by no one but Paul, including the church to whom he preached. To the simple man, the simple mind, he was taken literally and that brought nothing but confusion to them and to the church today.
The letter of James, however, has drawn praise from the highest authorities, including Luther. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 12: Page 15)
Other opinions are important to us in ascertaining the authority behind this letter, and its intrinsic qualities.
Although James has a few addendums, it is pretty much as it was when written. Peake's Commentary, believes the letter may have been written to Galileans, possibly some of Jesus original followers... the background is very similar to that of the synoptists... The writer believes that one's faith must show itself by one's conduct. (Peake's Commentary on the Bible; Page 1022: 893a)
The style of the letter is animated; the writer is obviously someone who was skilled in the higher Greek, and was well acquainted with the LXX. (Peake's Commentary on the Bible; Page 1022: 893b)
We are dealing with an intelligent, well-schooled mind, one that was necessary to deal with the 'gospel of Paul,' toward which this student believes it is aimed.
We must take notice of the Last verse of James, first.
"...let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins." (James 5:20; RSV)
This is a Jewish belief which was fully discussed in the first thesis, 'In Defense Of The Apostles Faith.' And although we have seen how interpreters and theologians try to explain the greeting, The Interpreter's Bible, stretches the rationalization to make it an all-inclusive statement.
They believe it is preferable, "...to explain the twelve tribes as meaning the whole spiritual Israel, i.e., all Christians." (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 12: page 20)
How they arrive at this conclusion is entirely speculative. Throughout, these same critics continue to exclaim how Jewish the epistle is, but never bother to explain how Christianity has become the '...spiritual Israel.' From the beginning to the end, even though these scholars admit all of Paul's crimes, they must defend him, they are forced to defend him. The entire church is based on nothing but Paul's doctrine.
At the outset, James begins a campaign relating to true faith and its substance.
"... for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness." (James 1:3; RSV)
Unlike Paul's faith without works, faith's tests must be met, and it can only be met by action. Even to continue in a righteous path of religious exercise one must do so by action. James proceeds to God's answer to prayer, in much the same light as Jesus did. When one approaches God one must be of an absolute belief that it will come to pass.
"If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God who gives to all men generously and without reproaching, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind." (James 1:5-6; RSV)
Faith alone is not sufficient, prayer is in evidence, and that without doubt or hesitation. When Jesus explained to us the gifts of the Father, he expressed himself in common, easily understood metaphors. Seek, knock, ask... but without doubt, without a faltering heart. That is putting faith into action.
If Paul's way is to be followed, one must ask why we are constantly tested. If Paul's way is to be followed, why are we told that we are never given a cross greater than we can bear? If Paul's way is to be followed, then Job is an example to no one.
"Blessed is the man who endures trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life which God has promised to those who love him." (James 1:12; RSV)
By interpreter's standards, vs. 17, is obscure "The terminology in the remainder of vs. 17 is almost hopelessly obscure and the textual evidence equally so." (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 12: Page 29)
But it is plain enough when read in context with the entire subject of this part of the letter.
"Every good endowment and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of Lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change." (James 1:17; RSV)
God is steadfast, there is no change in God's person or action. There are no hidden motives, nothing in the 'shadow' of darkness to be revealed later, i.e., there is no deception in God. The Lord God has no human failings, no hypocrisy.
The difficulty is, as in other places in the Greek testaments and as opposed to the criticism of the Old Testament, that those involved are prejudiced. They are biased in their handling of the New Testament and do everything possible, legitimate or not, to uphold to an erroneous tradition. But, the truth be known, they have no choice.
This is the major reason that they continue to applaud Paul even when he has been proven wrong, not by this student, but by his own peers. Luke is an excellent example of the distortion he raises in his efforts to prove his superiority and his authority.
Again, the theologians of our time refer to James' writing as 'Christian', but note that, it is more akin to Judaism rather than Christianity. (The use of the term, the righteousness of God, is basically Jewish, and certainly not Pauline!) (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 12: Page 31)
At this point, the author begins to take Paul to task. This must be repeated in its entirety.
"But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves... But he who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer that forgets but a doer that acts, he shall be blessed in his doing." (James 1:22-25; RSV)
The author of James also continues a path that seems to place the rich in a very bad light. He speaks of honoring the widow, and the orphan, and the poor man.
"Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this; to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained in the world." (James 1: 27; RSV)
"Is it not the rich who oppress you, is it not they who drag you into court? Is it not they who blaspheme that honorable name by which you are called?" (James 2:6-7; RSV)
James raises the inevitable question.
"What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him?... So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead." (James 2:14-17; RSV)
This is a direct answer to Paul's irreconcilable, 'faith alone'. It refutes the Gospel that Paul perpetrated in the first days of the church and brings to us this very day. It is the stand of the Catholic church as it seeks reconciliation in the eyes of Protestant Christianity, bringing this same worthless message in an attempt to bind up a dying religion.
"But some one will say, "You have faith and I have works." Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith." (James 2:18; RSV)
It is impossible to prove Paul's stand other than by admitting action, as God states in His Holy Scriptures. To say that you have faith, or that you believe something, without acting on that statement proves nothing. Paul is playing word games. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 12: Page 43)
James uses the example of Abraham that Paul used, in a valid context.
"Do you want to be shown, you foolish fellow, that faith apart from works is barren? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and the scripture was fulfilled which says, "Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness." (James 2:20-23; RSV)
In these verses, Genesis 15:5-6, is a forerunner of Genesis 22: 1-14, where a more specific blessing is given due to Abraham's faith which proved itself in by his specific actions. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 12: Page 44)
Peake's Commentary agrees with this conclusion, and carries the proof even further. (Peake's Commentary on the Bible; Page 1024: 895d)
Faith, yes, surely not works alone, but works are always active when faith is involved or there is nothing. Abraham's faith was always accompanied by his works, and it was necessary or God would not have tested him to prove his faith. The Interpreter's Bible, puts it perfectly, and in a simple statement.
"This (vs. 23) is how Gen. 15:6 must be understood!" (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 12: Page 45) What startles this student, is how scholars can side with Paul's faith without works when eulogizing his words, and then show complete agreement with James.
James also brings in Rahab's works, a work that justified her even though she was a harlot. And he ends with the exclamation, "For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so faith apart from works is dead." (James 2:26; RSV)
Paul has spoken about the various parts of the body and how one is interconnected with the other. One cannot operate properly without the other, and yet Paul attempts to separate the two parts of the body that are absolutely essential to each other. One does not function at all without the other.
Paul must wither in the face of such an argument, but this author is not done yet. James obviously knows that the tongue is the most dangerous part of the body. And he implies that one who makes no mistakes is a perfect man, able to bridle his whole body. (James 3:2; RSV)
Paul has been seen throughout this entire study as one whose word is the only one to be accepted. He is faultless in his philosophy and in his understanding of God's mind. These are his own words, are they not? His followers are to accept no other gospel, "But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed." (Galatians 1:7-8; RSV)
James is aware of Paul's work, and the power of his words. For this reason, the very first line of this section bears a warning which Jesus himself declared in his ministry. And even more to the point.
"Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, for you know that we who teach shall be judged with greater strictness." (James 3:1; RSV)
"Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:19; RSV)
Jesus speaks of 'works', doing. He speaks of teaching men to disregard and ignore God's Law. Between Paul and Jesus? I choose Jesus!
If James is not speaking of Paul and his unbridled tongue, I cannot imagine what he is referring to. His statements bring bitter truth to the fore, and are examples of what this student has attempted to point out as flaws in Paul's character.
"But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This wisdom is not such as comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice." (James 3:15-16; RSV)
James has an eye for understanding character. No better picture could have been drawn of the man, Paul. His own words have exemplified contradiction, hypocrisy, jealousy, and the desire to see men cursed. We have seen abuse of his power, misuse of his authority for personal gain and the preaching of a gospel that even Jesus' words oppose. And as children who have been beguiled by the words of the serpent, just like Eve, the church has accepted it hook, line, and sinker.
James goes on to preach once again against the rich! Surely not all the rich are evil; surely not all the rich are unsaved, therefore, James must have someone, or some group, in mind. In the midst of this we are made aware of the mind of the author. He is convinced, as was every one else, that Jesus' return was about to take place.
"You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the lord is at hand." (James 5:8; RSV)
James has already spoken of asking God with complete faith. Now he brings it up again in a most pointed manner.
"Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven." (James 5:13-15; RSV)
All these things are understood in the condition that it must be God's will, and no one, including Paul, has a knowledge of His mind. But here, the theologians make a most perceptive statement.
It is common knowledge that where profound faith exists, extraordinary cures occur. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 12: Page 71)
James ends with a familiar Jewish belief.
"My brethren, if any one among you wanders from the truth and some one brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins." (James 5:19-20; RSV)