James 5.1-6; Psalm 48; Mark 9.41-50
James, no less in Biblical times than in our own day, was a very common name; the New Testament refers to a number of people with this name, including two of the twelve disciples. [Matthew 10.2-4] A ‘James’ is named among the ‘brothers’ of Jesus. [Matthew 13.55] (It is worth noting that even today in most of the world’s cultures the term brothers doesn’t exclusively refer to offspring of the same mother and father; the New Testament doesn’t claim that Mary gave birth to further children after the birth of Jesus.) A ‘James’ speaks at the Council of Jerusalem in the Acts of the Apostles [15.13-21]; he seems to be in a role of leadership or authority there. St Paul refers to a ‘James’ to whom the Risen Christ had appeared on an apparently unique occasion [I Corinthians 15.7]; no such resurrection appearance is mentioned in any of the Gospels.
So it is difficult to say who the author of the Epistle of St James in the New Testament was. Since James the Son of Zebedee was the first of the twelve to be put to death by Herod Agrippa [Acts 12.1-2] he seems unlikely to have been the author. The authorial James announces himself as ‘the servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ’ [James 1.1] and addresses his epistle to Jewish-Christians living in the diaspora, that is, the Graeco-Roman world.
James may well be one of the earliest New Testament writings; a large number of ‘sayings’ of Jesus that we know from the Gospels are referred to in this book, though there is no effort in it to recount the events of Jesus’ life, death or resurrection. From it we can gain some insights into the Hellenised world in which the story of Jesus first took hold.