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The Oxford Bible Commentary Line-by-line commentary for the New Revised Standard Version Bible.

The Author.

1.

The simple presentation of a certain ‘James’ as author in the prescript ( 1:1 ) may already point to the most famous bearer of this name in NT times, ‘James, the brother of the Lord’ (cf. Jude 1 ). In the fourth century Helvidius made James out to be a blood brother of Jesus and Jerome considered him a cousin, but the second-century tradition thought of a step-brother stemming from an earlier marriage of Joseph (Bauckham 1990: 19–32). James did not follow Jesus (Jn 7:5 ) and was converted only by an appearance of the risen Lord (1 Cor 15:7 ). As a representative of the family of Jesus he was the leader of an influential group in the primitive Jerusalem community (Gal 1:19; Acts 1:13 ). When after the persecution of Agrippa I (41–4 CE) the twelve left Jerusalem, James became the only leader (Acts 12; Gal 2:9 ). The interfering of Jewish Christians close to him in the mixed community of Antioch (Gal 2:11–14 ) might be due to a widespread Jewish belief that Syria was part of a greater Holy Land and subject to its special regulations (Bockmuehl 1999 ). Such a belief can also explain the sending of an encyclical diaspora letter. Although being himself a conservative Jewish Christian at the Apostolic Council of 48 CE (Acts 15 ) James consented to the inclusion of Gentile Christians without total obedience to the Torah (Hengel 1985; Bauckham 1995 ). At the instigation of the high priest Ananus he died in 61 CE as a martyr for his belief in the messiaship of Jesus (Jos. Ant. 20. 200). Wherever in the early church the letter was believed to be authentic it was also ascribed to this James.

2.

Many scholars put forward serious doubts against the authorship of James (Popkes 1986; Pratscher 1987; Konradt 1998 ), but with our deeper insight into the Hellenization of Judaea the argument of Greek language and style has lost much of its force. An encyclical Greek letter to the Diaspora could have been composed with the help of a secretary, as Jerome thought (PL 23. 639). Some scholars try to distinguish between an earlier version by James himself and a later edition by a rhetorically skilled writer (Davids 1982; Martin 1988 ). There are similarities between the vocabulary of James and Luke–Acts (Davids 1982: 49). That the letter does not refer to the Gentile mission and to problems of ritual law could be explained by an early date.

3.

Some further observations may strengthen the case for authenticity. Obviously, the family of Jesus shared traditions of a pre-Qumranic non-sectarian Essenism (Sacchi 1993; Boccaccini 1998 ) that originated in the movement of the pious and often poor ḥǎsîdîm (Betz and Riesner 1994: 143–7). The letter shows some proximity to the Enochic literature and the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs which originated in such circles. Later James and his community lived near the Essene Quarter of Jerusalem (Riesner 1993; 1998b ), which enhances the significance of the letter's parallels to the Dead Sea scrolls (Mussner 1987 ). James ‘might well have formed a bridge between Galilean Christian Nazirites and the Qumran Covenanters’ (Adamson 1989: 20), but an identification of the author with the Qumran ‘Teacher of Righteousness’ is fanciful. Besides Q, Matthean and Markan Jesus traditions (Hartin 1991 ) there is also knowledge of the Lukan special tradition (Davids 1982: 47–9) that was probably handed down by Jewish Christians gathered around the relatives of Jesus in Jerusalem and Judea (Riesner 1994 ). The letter is marked by a certain Judean local colour (Davids 1999 ). The Enochic flavour connects James, the Lukan special tradition, and Jude, also ascribed to a brother of Jesus.

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