By George Salmon
THE EPISTLE OF ST. JAMES.
I have already stated (p. 475) that Eusebius in his list of Canonical books (iii. 25) places the Epistle of James in his second class, viz. books controverted, but recognized by most. Elsewhere (ii. 23) having told the story of the martyrdom of James the Just, he adds: This is the account given of James, who is said to have been the author of the first of what are called the Catholic Epistles. But it must be observed that this is held to be spurious (νοθεύεται): at least not many of the ancients have made mention of it, nor yet of the Epistle of Jude, which is likewise one of the seven called Catholic. Nevertheless, we know that these have been publicly used with the rest in most Churches. The suspicions expressed by Eusebius are more strongly stated by St. Jerome (De Viris Illust. 3), James wrote only one Epistle, which is one of the seven Catholic. It is asserted that this was published by some other person under his name, though as time went on it by degrees obtained authority. We learn from what Eusebius says that there was current in his time a collection of seven Catholic Epistles which, notwithstanding the doubts of learned men, were widely acknowledged as authoritative. The complete subsidence of doubt about these Epistles in the fifth century is in itself evidence that they must have been very widely received in the fourth.
Eusebius himself, in his Commentary on the Psalms, quotes the Epistle of James as the work of a holy Apostle.1 and as Scripture;2 and in the passages cited above he clearly gives us to understand that the cause of his hesitation about recognizing the Epistle was not any deficiency of acceptance in the Church of his own time, but infrequency of quotation by earlier Ecclesiastical writers. And it is true that Origen is the earliest writer whom we can produce as quoting this Epistle by name. He uses, too, a formula of citation, the Epistle current as that of James (ἐν τῇ φερομένῃ Ἰακώβου ἐπιστολῇ, In Joann. xix. 6), which suggests that he entertained doubts as to the authorship. Elsewhere, however, he calls the writer James, without expression of doubt (in Ps. 30). There are several quotations in the writings of Origen which have been preserved in the Latin translation of Rufinus, whose faithfulness as a translator, however, was not such as to enable us to use his authority with perfect confidence. We seem to have an earlier authority in Clement of Alexandria. Eusebius (vi. 14) says that, to state the matter shortly, Cle ment in his Hypotyposeis gave concise expositions of all the Canonical Scriptures, not omitting the controverted books I mean the Epistle of Jude and the other Catholic Epistles, the Epistle of Barnabas, and what is called the Revelation of Peter. Photius also (Cod. 109) adds his testimony that the Hypotyposeis included comments on the Catholic Epistles. On this evidence several have thought themselves warranted in asserting that Clement commented on all seven Catholic Epistles. But we are led to doubt this by the testimony of Cassiodorus (De Instit. Div. Litt. c. viii.).3 He says that Clement made comments on the Canonical Epistles, that is to say, on the First Epistle of St. Peter, the First and Second of St. John, and the Epistle of James; and that he himself had had these comments translated into Latin, omitting a few things incautiously said, which might give offence. Now, we have every reason to believe that the Latin fragments of the Hypotyposeis printed in the editions of Clement are these very translations of which Cassiodorus speaks. But the comments are on 1 Pet., 1 and 2 John, and Jude; not James. And since Eusebius has made express mention of Jude, we are led to correct James into Jude in the passage of Cassiodorus just referred to; and can feel no confidence in saying that the Hypotyposeis contained comments either on James or on 2 Peter. There are in other works of Clement coincidences with the Epistle of James, but all can be accounted for with- out assuming that he knew the Epistle. What seems most like a real quotation is, that in Strom, vi. 18, commenting on Matt. v. 20, he teaches that it is not enough for us to abstain from evil, as did the Scribes and Pharisees, but that unless we love our neighbour and do him good we shall not be royal (βασιλικοί). There might seem to be a plain reference here to the royal law of James iii. 8; but on turning back to Strom, ii. 4, p. 438, we find Clement insisting on the claim of Christians to the title βασιλικοί, having in view chiefly the Stoic ascription of kingly dignity to the wise man; and we therefore can build nothing on his later use of the same title.
Eusebius was not likely to overlook any express quotation of disputed books by early writers. But he might easily fail to pay attention to less direct proofs of their antiquity. Now, in the case of the Epistle of James, such evidence is forth coming. I refer, in particular, to the Shepherd of Hermas. This is a book in which Scripture quotations, either from Old or New Testament, are scarce; but we are perpetually re minded of James's Epistle, the great number of the coincidences serving as proof that they are not accidental. The topics dwelt on by James are those to which Hermas most frequently recurs. Thus the doctrine of the opening verses of James is several times echoed by Hermas that we must ask God for wisdom (Sim. v. 4, ix. 2), ask in faith without doubt or hesitation; for he who doubts must not expect to receive anything (James i. 7, Mand. ix.). He who so doubts is called a double-minded man (James i. 8), and the phrase διψυχία in this sense is of constant occurrence is Hermas. Again, there are exhortations to the rich, warning them that the groanings of the neglected poor will go up before the Lord (compare James ii. 6, v. 1-6, Vis. iii. 9) All through Mand. xi. there runs a reference to the contrast which St. James draws (iii. 15, 17) between the wisdom which cometh from above (ἄνωθεν), and that which is earthly, ἐπίγειος. As examples of how the vocabulary of James is reproduced in Hennas, I mention ἀκαταστασία, ἀκατάστατος (James iii. 16, i. 8, Sim. vi. 3, Mand. ii. 3); καθαρα ̀καὶ ἀμαντος (James i. 27, Mand. ii. 7); καρπὸς δικαιοσύνης (James iii. 18, Stm.ix. 19); συναγωγή for the place of Christian worship (James ii. 2, Mand. xi. 9); ἐτρυφήσατε καὶ ἐσπαταλήσατε (James v. 5, Sim. vi. 1); χαλιναγωγέω (James i. 26, iii. 2, Mand. xii. 1); πολύσπλαγχνος (James v. 11, Sim. v. 4); ο ̔δυνάμενος σῶσαι καὶ ἀπολέσαι (James iv. 12, Mand. xii. 6); καταλαλέω (James iv. 11, Mand. ii. 2, *SV;ra. ix. 23). In conclusion, I mention two striking parallels: the worthy name by which ye are called, James ii. 7 (τὸ καλὸν ὄνομα τὸ ̀ἐπικληθὲν ἐφ̓ ὑμας), τὸ ὄνομα κυρίου τὸ ἐπικληθὲν ἐπ̓ αὐτούς (Sim. viii. 6); and the exhortation (Mand. xii. 5), The devil may wrestle against you, but cannot overthrow you; for if ye resist him he will flee from you in confusion* (compare James iv. 7).
In the Epistle of the Roman Clement there are several coincidences which, in my opinion, are best explained as indicating that he used the Epistle of James, though I do not venture to say that any of them quite amounts to a positive proof. Thus, the quotation (c. 30) God resisteth the proud &c., may have been suggested not by James but by 1 Peter; and Clement's independent study of the Old Testament may have led him (c. 10), to call Abraham the friend of God. But though this title is twice found in our English version (2 Chron. xx. 7, Isai. xii. 8), the corresponding Hebrew word is not literally translated by friend; and the LXX. render it not by φίλος, but in the first place τῷ ἠγαπημένῳ σου, in the second ὃν ἠγάπησα. It appears, however, from Field's Hexapla, that some copies of the LXX. have the rendering friend in the first passage, and that Symmachus had it in the second. There seems also to have been a various reading φίλου for παιδός in Gen. xvii. 17, and Philo so cites the verse (De resipis. Noe, p. 401, Mangey); there is also an apparent allusion to it in Wisdom vii. 27. We therefore cannot argue as if it were only from James that Clement could have learned to use the term. Still Clement's acquaintance with our Epistle must be pronounced highly probable, when we note how he dwells on the obedience as well as the faith of Abraham; when we ob serve other coincidences, as, for example, between ἐγκαυχωμένοις ἐν ἀλαζονείᾳ (Clem. 21) and καυχᾶσθε ἐν ταῖς ἀλαζονείαις ὑμῶν (James iv. 16): and when we bear in mind that James was certainly used by Clement's contemporary, Hermas.
In any case we are forced to ascribe to the influence of James ii. 23 the manner in which two Old Testament passages are combined by Irenaeus (iv. xvi.), Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness, and he was called the friend of God: see also his use of the phrase Maw of liberty (iv. xxxiv. 4), a phrase which seems to have suggested some of the preceding arguments in the same book. Hippolytus has been quoted as using the Epistle, the words (James ii. 13) he shall have judgment without mercy, that showed no mercy, being found in the treatise Concerning the. End of the World (c. 47); but this treatise is not genuine. The resemblances that have been pointed out in the writings of Tertullian appear to me to furnish no proof that he knew St. James's Epistle; and no mention of it is found in the Muratorian Fragment. On the other hand, the Epistle was early acknowledged by the Syrian Church,4 and is found in the Peshitto.
It is curious that, as far as I am aware, no clear proof of the use of the Epistle is found in the pseudo-Clementines, although in the sect from which these writings emanated, James, the head of the Church at Jerusalem, was accounted the highest personage in the Church.
From this review of the external evidence it appears that, although the antiquity of the Epistle is sufficiently established by the use made of it by Hermas, it must in early times have had a very limited circulation, and been little known either in Alexandria or in the West. But, on the other hand, internal evidence is altogether favourable to the claims of the Epistle.
Very early tradition asserted that the Church of Jerusalem was first presided over by James, the Lord's brother. The pseudo-Clementine writings so far magnify the office of this James as to make him not only head of the local Church, but supreme ruler of the Christian society. We find no warrant elsewhere for this extension of the claims of James; but with regard to the Jerusalem Episcopate, early authorities are unanimous. Hegesippus (Euseb. ii. 23, iii. 32, iv. 22) not only relates that James was the first Bishop of Jerusalem, but also states that on his death Symeon, another relative of our Lord after the flesh, was made the second Bishop; and it was probably from Hegesippus that Eusebius derived the list which he gives of successors to Symeon. Clement of Alexandria also, in his Hypotyposeis cited by Eusebius (ii. i), says that Peter, James, and John, after our Lord's ascension, were not ambitious of dignity, honoured though they had been by the preference of their master, but chose James the Just as Bishop of Jerusalem. With this early tradition the Scripture notices completely agree. It is James to whom Peter sends the news of his release from prison (Acts xii. 17); James who presides over the meeting at Jerusalem (Acts xv.), and whose decision is adopted; James whom Paul visits, and whose counsel he follows on a later visit to Jerusalem (Acts xxi. 18). The inferences drawn from these passages in the Acts are confirmed by the Epistle to the Galatians (i. 19, ii. 9, 12). I count it the more probable opinion that this James was not one of the Twelve. Possibly he had not been a believer in our Lord at the time the Twelve were chosen.
Critics are so generally agreed that our Epistle purports to have been written by this James who presided over the Church of Jerusalem, that I do not think it worth while to discuss the claims of any other James. Now the letter itself completely harmonizes with this traditional account of its authorship, for it appears plainly to have been written by a Jew for Jewish readers, and in the very earliest age of the Church. Hug (Introduction, vol. ii., sec. 148) has carefully noted several indications which, though they do not amount to a proof, at least point to Palestine as the place of composition. The writer appears to have lived not far from the sea. He takes his illustrations from the wave of the sea driven by the wind and tossed; from the ships which, though they be so great and are driven by fierce winds, are turned about with a very small helm whithersoever the steersman desireth (i. 6, iii. 4). His land is the same as that of which it is written in Deut. xi. 14: I will give you the rain of your land in his due season, the first rain and the latter rain, that thou mayest gather in thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil: for he illustrates patience by the example of the husbandman waiting for the precious fruit of the earth, and having long patience until he receive the early and the latter rain (v. 7). And that wine and oil, as well as corn, were among the natural produce of his land is shown by his question, Can the fig-tree bear olive-berries, or a vine figs? (iii. 12). The hot burning wind (καύσων) which, when it swept the land, withered up the grass (i. 11), is the same as that of which, according to the Septuagint translation, Ezekiel speaks, when he asks, Shall not the plant utterly wither when the east wind toucheth it? it shall wither in the furrows where it grew (xvii. 10). It is the same wind which burned up the gourd of Jonah; the same probably whose approach our Lord (St. Luke xii. 54-57) represents His countrymen as exerting their weather-wisdom to forecast; the same which caused the burden and heat of the day spoken of in the parable of the labourers of the vine yard. Salt and bitter springs are known to the writer (iii. 11), and his country was exposed to suffer from droughts (v. 17).
The writer was not only a Jew, but he wrote for Jews. The address explicitly declares for whom it was intended the Jews of the Dispersion,5 the twelve tribes that were scattered abroad: that is to say, the letter was written by a Jew residing in his own land to his countrymen whom commercial enterprise had scattered over the empire; with whom migration from one city to another was an ordinary occurrence, as they said, To-day or to-morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain (iv. 13): a migration which may be illustrated from the New Testament references to Aquila and Priscilla, whom, though originally from Pontus, we find successively at Rome, at Corinth, and Ephesus, at Rome again, and at Ephesus again (Acts xviii. 1,19; Rom. xvi. 3; 2 Tim. iv. 19). But to return to the proofs that the letter is from a Jew to Jews, the writer speaks of Abraham as our father (ii. 21); he gives their place of meeting the Jewish name of synagogue (ii. 2); he assumes the Old Testament to be familiarly known by his readers, referring to Rahab, Job, Elias, and the prophets (ii. 25, v. 10, v. 17): God is designated by the Old Testament name the Lord of Sabaoth (v. 4); and the Mosaic law is assumed to be an authority from which there is no appeal.
The Jews, however, who are addressed are all Christian Jews. The writer describes himself as the servant of our Lord Jesus Christ, and addresses his readers as his brethren. He speakes of the worthy name by which they are called (ii. 7); and, in short, the whole letter assumes a community of faith between the writer and his readers. The history of the Acts relates a dispersion of Christian Jews resulting from the persecution that followed the death of Stephen; so that we are at no loss to seek for Christian Jews of the Dispersion to whom, at an early date, the letter might have been addressed. Syria, in particular, was full of them, and it is not improbable that this was the country to which the letter was in the first instance sent. I have already said the Epistle is found in the ancient Syriac Peshitto translation.
Further, there is every appearance that the writer of this Epistle had been a personal follower of our Lord. We infer this from the number of passages where we have an echo of our Lord's discourses. In the Epistles of Paul, who was not a hearer of our Lord during His earthly ministry, though references to the person and to the work of Christ are of constant occurrence, there is but little trace of the influence of our Lord's discourses.6 It is otherwise here. There is nothing indeed that we are entitled to say is directly copied from the Synoptic Gospels; but there are very many resemblances to the discourses of our Lord which those Gospels record, such as find their most natural explanation in the supposition that a hearer of those discourses, on whom they had made a deep impression, is perhaps unconsciously reproducing the lessons he had learned from them. The most striking example will probably have occurred to you: My brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath; but let your yea be yea, and your nay nay, lest ye fall into condemnation (James v. 12, Matt, v. 37). But there is a number of cases where, though the resemblance is not so complete, it is sufficient to leave little doubt that it is more than accidental. St. James says, Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only (i. 22): our Lord had said, Everyone that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man which built his house upon the sand (Matt. vii. 26). St. James, the doer of the work shall be blessed in his doing (i. 25): our Lord, If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them (John xiii. 17). St. James speaks of the poor of this world as heirs of the kingdom (ii. 5): our Lord had said, Blessed are ye poor, for yours is the kingdom of God (Luke vi. 20). St. James, Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall exalt you (iv. 10): our Lord had said, 4 He that shall humble himself shall be exalted (Matt, xxiii. 12). Who art thou that judgest another? cries St. James (iv. 12): our Lord had said, Judge not, that ye be not judged (Matt. vii. i). St. James says, If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, and it shall be given him (i. 5); echoing our Lord's words, Ask, and it shall be given you (Matt, vii. 7). St. James goes on to say, But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering (μηδὲν διακρινόμενος): our Lord's promise (Mark xi. 23) had been, Whosoever shall not doubt in his heart (μη ̀διακριθῇ), but shall believe, shall have whatsoever he saith. Again, our Lord's words, Be ye perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect (Matt. v. 48), appear in James in the form, Let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect (i. 4). St. James's denunciations of the rich (c. v.) reproduce our Lord s, Woe unto you rich, for ye have received your consolation* (Luke vi. 24). St. James's Let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness (iv. 9), answers to our Lord's Woe unto you that laugh now, for ye shall mourn and weep* (Luke vi. 25). Other instances might be added, and in some of them, no doubt, the likeness may be only accidental; but the cases are too numerous to allow us to think that they are all chance resemblances. They are, as I say, not cases of quotation from the Synoptic Gospels, but have all the air of being independent testimony to our Lord's teaching given by one who draws his lessons from his own memory of what he had learned from his Master. I have already (p. 221) thrown out the conjecture that a great deal more of James's Epistle may be founded on sayings of our Lord than we have now the means of identifying; and, in particular, that what is said (i. 12) of our Lord's promise of a crown of life may refer to an unrecorded saying of the Saviour.
Turning now to examine the date of the composition, we can infer that it was written before the destruction of Jerusalem, from the entire aspect which it presents of the relations between the Christian Jews and their unconverted brethren. The Apostle represents the religious difference as in a great degree coincident with a difference in social condition. It is the poor of this world who have been chosen, rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which God has promised to them that love Him. The rich, on the other hand, oppress the disciples, draw them before the tribunals, and blaspheme the worthy Name by which they are called. And again, towards the end of the letter, the Apostle, in tones of one of the old prophets, denounces the luxury and wantonness, the grasping oppression and tyranny, of the rich, and lifts up his voice in warning of the misery that was to come on them.
Now the picture here exhibited well corresponds with that which is presented by Josephus and other Jewish authorities, of the condition of Palestine in the time following the death of our Lord. The pride and luxury of the rich Sadducean party were at their height. They filled the high offices of the priesthood, which they had simoniacally purchased with money. They tyrannized over the poor. Josephus tells how the high priests sent their servants to the threshing-floors to take away the tithes that by right belonged to the poorer priests, beating those who refused to give them; and that some of the poorer priests, thus defrauded of their maintenance, actually died of want (Antt. xx. viii. 8, ix. 2).7 It can easily be imagined that the religiously-minded of the Jews revolted against such practices, and that poverty and piety came to be naturally associated. It was most natural, too, that it should be among those who revolted against the worldliness and ungodliness of the men of high condition, that minds should be found best prepared for the reception of the Gospel. In fact, the poverty of the Jewish Church is proved by many indications. The Gentile Churches were, as a whole, not very rich. St. Paul says that not many mighty, not many noble, had been called; but yet the Gentile Churches were rich in comparison with the native Jewish Church; and in the Acts and in Paul's Epistles we read more than once of the contributions which the Apostle of the Gentiles collected among his converts, that he might bring them as alms to his nation and offerings. In somewhat later times Ebionite, a name derived from poverty, was that by which the Jewish Christians were known. We see, then, how completely historical is the picture which St. James's Epistle presents of the social line of separation which, as a general rule, divided the Christians from their unconverted brethren. But this picture belongs to a time before the destruction of Jerusalem. The rich classes courted the favour of the Romans, and by purchasing their support were able to maintain the tyranny which they exercised over their poorer brethren. Thus they arrayed against themselves not only the religious but the patriotic feelings of the nation. At length this patriotism burst forth in wild fury, which drew down destruction on the city. And then the Sadducean power came to an end; so that it would be a complete anachronism to put any later that representation of the heartless, God-forgetting prosperity of the upper classes which we find in St. James's Epistle. The argument which I have here used convinces Renan, who accepts this Epistle as written before the destruction of Jerusalem.8
We find other evidence of early date in the indistinctness of the line of separation between the converted and the un converted Jew. The Christian Jew, as we know from the Acts, frequented the Temple worship, and observed the national rites. James himself bore among his countrymen a reputation for the greatest sanctity.9 But the Christians had besides of necessity synagogues of their own, private conventicles for their own worship. These were open to any unconverted brethren whom curiosity might lead to visit them. In the very natural picture drawn (ch. ii.) of the well- dressed stranger coming into the synagogue, received with high respect, and shown into the best seat, the poor visitor allowed to stand or pushed into the least-honoured place, it is plain that the visitors are men who have no recognized right to a place of their own; that is to say, that they are strangers to the community. Further evidence may be drawn from the statement that the rich oppressors harassed the Christians by bringing them before the tribunals. This can not refer to Gentile tribunals. Down to a date later than any suggested for this letter, a charge brought against Christians solely on the ground of their religion would be received by a heathen magistrate as Gallic received the accusation brought against St. Paul. But the Roman policy allowed to the Jewish authorities considerable power over their own countrymen; and that not only in the Holy Land itself, but in the countries to which the Jews were dispersed. With respect to Syria, in particular, we have evidence in the mission of Saul to Damascus, where the power and authority given him by the chief priests at Jerusalem would have sufficed him for the imprisonment and further punishment of those who called on the name of Jesus. It is plain, then, that when the Epistle was written the Christians were in the eyes of their Roman masters but a sect of Jews, and were as such subject to their national tribunals.
But we may go still further back, and argue from the total absence of all reference in the Epistle to the non-Jewish world. There is not a word of allusion to the existence in the Church of men of Gentile birth; not the slightest notice of the controversies to which their admission led as to the obligation of such persons to observe the Mosiac law. It is often one of the surest criteria of the date of a document to notice what were the controversial interests of the writer. In the present instance there is no notice whatever of that great dispute on which the assembly, whose proceedings are re corded in the i5th of Acts, was called on to pronounce, and of which the Epistles to the Galatians, Romans, and Corinthians are full, namely, the terms of justification of the Gentile believer, and the extent to which he was obliged to observe the Mosaic law. In this Epistle all its readers are assumed to be under the obligations of that law.
What I have stated would not be correct if the views could be maintained of those who look upon the latter half of the second chapter as an anti-Pauline polemic; some even maintaining that the Apostle Paul is the vain man, who needed to be taught that faith without works is dead; though such language is so little fitted to the character of the historical James, that the theory that this chapter is anti-Pauline commonly leads to the theory that the Epistle is not genuine, but is the late work of some Jewish Christian opponent of Paulinism, who dignified his performance with the name of the pillar Apostle James. In fact, to a disciple of Baur there is no more disappointing document than this Epistle of James. Here, if anywhere in the New Testament, he might expect to find some evidence of anti-Pauline rancour. There is what looks like flat contradiction between this Epistle and the teaching of St. Paul. St. Paul says (Rom. iii. 28), There fore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. St. James says (ii. 24), Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. Our first impression certainly is that not only is the teaching of the two Apostles different, but that the one wrote with the express purpose of controverting what the other had said. But that opposition to Paul which, on a superficial glance, we are disposed to ascribe to the Epistle of James, disappears on a closer examination.
I postpone for the moment the question whether we can suppose that James intended to contradict Paul; but whether he intended it or not, he has not really done so; he has denied nothing that Paul has asserted, and asserted nothing that a disciple of Paul would care to deny. On comparing the lan guage of James with that of Paul, all the distinctive expressions of the latter are found to be absent from the former. St. Paul's thesis is that a man is justified not by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ. James speaks only of works without any mention of the law, and of faith without any mention of Jesus Christ; the example of faith which he considers being merely the belief that there is one God. In other words, James is writing not in the interests of Judaism, but of morality. Paul had taught that faith in Jesus Christ was able to justify a man uncircumcised, and unobservant of the Mosaic ordinances. He taught, and St. Peter also is re presented in the Acts (xv. n) as teaching, that it was only through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ that Jew or Gentile could be saved, and that it was therefore wrong to put on the necks of the brethren the yoke of other conditions asserted to be necessary to salvation. For this Pauline teaching James not only has no word of contradiction, but he gives no sign of ever having heard of the controversy which, according to Baur, formed the most striking feature in the early history of the Church.
On the other hand, no disciple of Paul would wish to contradict what James does say as to the worthlessness of speculative belief that bears no fruit in action. Paul himself had said the same things in other words, Thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God, and knowest his will, and approvest the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law; and art confident that thou thyself art a guide of the blind, a light of them which are in darkness, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which hast the form of knowledge, and of the truth in the law. Thou, therefore, which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal? thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege? thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonorest thou God? (Rom. ii. 17-23).
I need not remind you what controversies there have been in the Christian Church on the subject of justification. Luther, you know, at one time regarded the difference between the two Apostles as irreconcilable, and applied a disparaging epithet to the Epistle of James. But whatever embarrass ment the apparent disagreement between the Apostles has caused to orthodox theologians is as nothing in comparison with the embarrassment caused to a disciple of Baur by their fundamental agreement. For the disputes on the subject of justification all lie in the region of speculative theology; but about practical duties all are now agreed. Those who say that a man is justified by faith without works are careful to say also that a faith which does not bear fruit in good works is not a genuine faith. Taking their doctrine from what they conceive to be the teaching of Paul, they do not dream of controverting his instructions to Titus (iii. 8), These things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. But when Paul asserted that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law, he was not dealing merely with the question what relation to justification was borne by the works which all allowed ought to be performed. There was also the urgent practical question whether certain works of the law needed to be performed or not. One party said (Acts xv. i), Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. Paul himself said (Gal. v. 2), Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. This was no speculative question, but one that affected the practice of very Gentile convert. As long as controversy on this subject was raging, it is inconceivable that anyone should discuss the subject of justification, and be absolutely silent on this great practical question. And therefore the fact that when James speaks of works, he seems to have only in his mind such works as men in all ages have accounted to be good, and makes no mention of the specially Mosaic ordinances, is convincing proof that he wrote either before the controversy concerning the universal obligation of these ordinances had arisen, or else after it had died out.
Critics of the sceptical school generally choose the alter native of assigning a late date to the Epistle, but they can hardly find one late enough to bring the Epistle into accordance with Baur's history of the early Christian Church. For according to Baur, at the time the Epistles to the Seven Churches were written, that is to say, sometime after the death of the historical James, the heads of Jewish Christianity regarded Paul as an enemy; and hostility to Paul survived down to the time of publication of the pseudo-Clementines. But as long as the conflict about the universal obligation of Mosaism was raging, how was it possible that a Jewish Christian should so completely ignore it as the writer of this Epistle does a writer who seems to have no thought of ceremonial observance, and whose sole interest is to maintain that speculative belief is worthless, if it do not bear fruit in holiness of life? I could imagine an opponent of Paul affecting to believe that that Apostle's denial of the obligation of the Mosaic law included a denial of the obligation of the precepts of the Decalogue, and insisting on these precepts with the controversial object of making it believed that his adversary was opposed to them. But no one can read the Epistle of James without feeling that the writer has no arrière pensée in his assertion of the claims of practical morality: for he never makes the smallest attempt under cover of establishing the obligation of the moral precepts of the law, to insinuate the duty of compliance with ceremonial ordinances.
I consider that the proofs that the Epistle was written be fore the destruction of Jerusalem, by one who had personally been a hearer of our Lord, and who lived while His second coming was still regarded as likely to be of immediate occurrence (v. 8), are so strong as to force us to reject the hypothesis that it was written by someone later than the James to whom it has been traditionally ascribed. An objection to his author ship has been raised on account of the goodness of the Greek in which the letter is written. But this argument is of no force. For though we should not beforehand have expected James to write in such good Greek, we see plainly that the letter was written by a Jew; and we can give no reason why James might not know as much Greek as another Jew. The only question, then, that seems to me worth discussing is, whether it was written late or early in that Apostle's life. As I hold that the controversy concerning the obligation of circumcision on Gentiles was one of very short duration, I could admit the Epistle to be later than that controversy, and yet to have been written by James.
The date we assign the Epistle depends very much on our determination of the question whether or not James had read St. Paul's Epistles. Several critics have held that the writer of the Epistle we are considering lived so late as to have become acquainted with an entire collection of Pauline Epistles, and with the Epistle to the Hebrews besides. I have already said that it seemed to me probable that this last Epistle was written in the lifetime of James, so that his acquaintance with it involves no impossibility. But the main proof of that acquaintance consists in the fact that in both letters Rahab the harlot is cited as an example of faith; and though the coincidence is certainly remarkable, it is scarcely enough to establish obligation on either side, ignorant as we are of the examples in common use in the theological discussions of the time. In fact it seems to me that one who had read Hebrews xi. would have found in that chapter other examples of faith more tempting for discussion than the case of Rahab. I think also that if James had read the Epistle to the Hebrews, there would have been some reference to the high priesthood of Christ, which is so copiously dwelt on in that letter. And in every respect the Epistle to the Hebrews shows signs of being the later document of the two. All through the writer shows his anxiety lest his readers should be tempted to apostasy, of which there evidently had been examples even in men who had been partakers of the miraculous gifts of the Holy Ghost (vi. 4); but the persecution suffered by those whom James addressed appears to have been both less severe and less formal.
The coincidences10 alleged to prove that James had read the Pauline letters seem to me undeserving of attention, except in the case of the Epistle to the Romans. And even in this case there are considerations which make us hesitate before regarding these coincidences as proofs of obligation. If James had read the Epistle to the Romans, I think he would have avoided the appearance of verbal contradiction to a letter with the doctrine of which he is in such substantial agreement. It is not merely that he is silent as to the bearing on Gentile obligation of the question of justification; but on the general theological question he is quite in unison with St. Paul.
The representations of James are as unfavourable as those of Paul to the idea of a man being able to claim salvation as earned by the merit of his good works. What hast thou that thou didst not receive? asks Paul (1 Cor. iv. 7): Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above is the doctrine of James (i. 17). The latter Apostle teaches also that if a man offend in one point, he can claim no merit even though he have fulfilled all the other commandments of the law; the breach of that one precept makes him guilty of all (ii. 10). It is not merely the sinful act which brings condemnation; the sinful desire begins a course which ends in death (i. 15). And he gives the name of sin not only to the unlawful act,, not only to the desire from which that act sprang, but even to the omission to use an opportunity presented for doing good (iv. 17). When James describes the law whose claims he enforces, by the title law of liberty (ii. 12), he shows himself to be not at variance with Paul. There is then such a real identity of teaching between Paul and James, that I am disposed to believe that if James had known the Epistles to the Romans and Galatians, he would have guarded against the semblance of opposition even in words. Yet I do not deny that he probably had an indirect knowledge of the doc trines taught by Paul, and of the arguments by which he was wont to support them. For the doctrine which James refutes has a certain likeness to the doctrine taught by Paul, though it is but a distortion and misrepresentation of it. We know, from the Acts of the Apostles (xv. i), that St. Paul, in the course of his pastoral labours, met with certain who came down from James, and who professed to speak by his authority, and who yet taught, concerning the absolute necessity of circumcision and other legal rites, doctrines which St. James subsequently denied ever to have emanated from him (ib. 19), Were the men who at Antioch misrepresented the teaching of James likely to give a fair report of the teaching of Paul when they returned to Jerusalem? And very possibly it may have been true that there were some who professed to speak as they had been taught by Paul, and who yet used language im plying that a barren historical belief was sufficient for justification; and that good works not merely were to be excluded from the office of justifying, but might without injury be absent in him who is justified. We might expect that such teaching would be strenuously opposed by James, who shows that he had so carefully treasured up his Master's words, and who probably had heard Him declare, Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. But we need not doubt that such teaching would have been equally disowned by St. Paul.
If I am right in thinking that the Epistle of James is to be regarded as a document belonging to a very early age of the Christian Church, we can understand why specially Christian doctrine appears here in a less developed form than in later inspired writings, and why its teaching has more affinity with that of the Old Testament prophets,11 and with the teaching of our Blessed Lord Himself, than with that of the letters of St. Paul, or even of St. Peter and St. John. Our Lord did not, during His personal ministry, reveal all the mysteries of His kingdom, but he left them to be taught to His Church by the Apostles whom His Spirit was to guide into all the truth. Paul was a chosen instrument for the revelation of Christ's Gospel; and it might well be that there was a portion of the truth, the need for dwelling on which was not so much felt by the elder Apostles until brought home to them by Paul's teaching, though they readily owned it when proclaimed by him.
But before we disparage the amount of specially Christian teaching which St. James's Epistle contains, it is well to look into the matter a little more closely. There was a time in the Apostle's life when he was but a pious Jew. It appears from St. John's Gospel that in our Lord's lifetime His brethren did not believe in Him. No prophet has honour in his own country, and the members of our Lord's family would naturally be the slowest to own in Him a being of different nature from themselves. But St. Paul tells us (1 Cor. xv. 7) that our Lord, after His resurrection, appeared to James; and it is not unnatural to ascribe to that appearance the great change which ranged James among those who owned the risen Saviour as the great object of their faith. In the inscription of his Epistle he claims no honour from his human relation ship with his Master, but describes himself as the servant of God and of our Lord Jesus Christ. What a change is it that where once he might have been entitled to bear the name of brother, now he only dares to call himself the slave; and in his form of expression puts this new Master whom he owned on the level of God, James, of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ the slave. Christ's is the worthy name which he is proud to bear (ii. 7); Christ the great object of the faith common to him with those to whom he writes, which is de scribed as the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ (ii. i). He is the Lord of glory, and His second coming the longing hope of His Church. They must be exhorted to wait patiently for it as the husbandman waits patiently for the precious fruit of the earth (v. 7). The purpose of that coming, as expected by James and his readers alike, was that which we express in the words, We believe that Thou shalt come to be our Judge. The judge standeth before the door, cries St. James. Stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh (v. 8, 9). And while yet separated from His Church, Christ is still its ruler and the source of its supernatural power. Miracles of healing were looked for, but it was in His name that the sick were to be anointed; it was He who should raise them up, and through whom they were to obtain the forgive ness of their sins (v. 14, 15). The man whose faith we have here described was clearly no mere Jew, but one whose whole religious life had Jesus for its centre and foundation.
But although St. James was very much more than a pious Jew, it is not uninteresting to study him in that character. There have been those of late years, both unbelievers and Christians, who have written lives of our Lord, and have striven to form a conception of that earthly life which, if Jesus be looked on only as an historical character, is still one of the most important in all its results for the human race. Well, if we wish to know the influences under which Jesus of Nazareth was brought up, what better evidence can we have than that which can be drawn from the character of another member of the same family, brought up with the same surroundings, a character which we know, not only from the report of others, but as it reveals itself in his own writings? The very fact that there is less of distinctively Christian doc trine in St. James than in the other Epistles makes it possible for us to see in him, who seems to have been least changed by his Christianity, a type of what those pious men were among the Jews who, before our Lord's coming, waited for the consolation of Israel.
We see then in James, a man of few words, slow to speak, deeply alive to the guilt of sins of the tongue, counting the religion vain of the man who cannot bridle his tongue, meek, slow to wrath, humble, a hater of worldliness, whose sympathies are with the poor of this world, and whose indignation is excited when they are scorned in the house of God, a man of prayer, full of faith in the efficacy of a righteous man's fervent prayer, zealous for the law, yet not for mere ceremonial observance, imbued with the spirit of the prophet's maxim that God will have mercy and not sacrifice, and holding that the true θρησκεία is to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world. Before we disparage the teaching of such a man, let us beware lest we disparage the teaching of our Lord Himself, with whom his character has much in common, and the topics of whose ordinary discourses seem not to have been very different.
If any are inclined to think that too much of the Epistle of James is occupied with moral precepts, and that by taking these for granted the space they fill might have been gained for doctrinal instruction, such persons ought to be reminded how needful this moral teaching was at the time when the Epistle was written, and how much of the success of Christianity was due to the pains which its teachers took in inculcating lessons which seem to us commonplace. Some Christian apologists have perhaps stated too strongly the contrast between Christian and heathen morality; not giving due credit to the excellence of some virtuous heathen, and too literally taking the representations of satirists as fair pictures of the general condition of society. Yet the historical student must own that since the publication of the Gospel the general standard of morality has been raised. For in heathen times a man would have been regarded as of exceptional goodness if he practised those homely duties which an ordinary Christian gentleman would now count himself disgraced if he failed in. When Pliny set himself to inquire what was the sacramentum administered to Christians at their meetings before daylight, the information given him no doubt truly told him the nature of the instructions given on these occasions. And what we learn that the disciples then pledged themselves to was what seems to us very elementary morality, viz. that they were not to rob or steal, not to commit adultery, not to break their word, and if the money of others were entrusted to them, not to appropriate it to themselves. It was, no doubt, a pleasant exaggeration of Juvenal to represent (Sat. xiii.) the faithful return of a friend's deposit as in his time such a rarity, that its occurrence might be regarded as a portentous event, demanding the offering of an expiatory sacrifice. Yet we need not doubt that by the Christian discipline the honesty of the disciples was raised to a marked superiority over the ordinary heathen level, and that a Christian came to be known as one whose word was as good as another man's oath, who would not lie, nor cheat, nor take an unfair advantage. We are warranted in thinking this, because Justin Martyr (Apol. i. 16) enumerates among the common causes of conversions to Christianity the impression which the honesty of Christians made on those who did business with them.
We have further evidence of the low state of heathen morality in another class of precepts, which we find much dwelt on in documents later than the Epistle we are considering. In the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles (ii. 2), for instance, the disciple is instructed that he must neither destroy the life of his unborn child nor kill it after birth; and that he must not practise abominations which in those days were confessed without shame, but which we now loathe to speak of. I think that the nearly complete absence of warnings against sins of the flesh in the Epistle of James is evidence both that this Epistle was addressed to Jews, and that in such matters Jewish morality was higher than that of the heathen world. St. Paul, in his letters addressed to Churches in which Gentiles predominated, finds it impossible to be silent on such topics. How much the moral standard of society was raised by these instructions, and by the Christian rule of expelling as a disgrace to their community those who transgressed them, we have evidence in the fact that three centuries later the Emperor Julian is scandalized by the revelation as to the previous character of Paul's converts, made in the confession (i Cor. vi. n) such were some of you (see Cyril. Alex. adv. Jul. vii.).
In our times, as well as in his own, sayings of St. Paul have been caught up and distorted. It has been thought as needless to dwell on those fruits of faith on which he was always so careful to enlarge, as if experience never showed us the possibility that there might be what St. James called a dead faith. Men have read with impatience St. James's inculcation of holiness, purity, unworldliness, meekness, as if these lessons obscured the teaching of that which was really important. But no true disciple of Paul can be offended at the proportion which practical exhortation occupies in the Epistle of James. For Paul himself put the production of holy living in the place of pre-eminence, as the end for which the whole system was devised: Christ gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works (Tit. ii. 14). Christianity gave men new motives and new powers for attain ing holiness. But if they did not attain it, they had learned their religion in vain.12
1) Λέγει γοῦν ο ̔ἱερὸς ἀπόστολος· κακοπαθεῖτις κ.τ,λ. (James v. 13); in Ps. 56, p. 504, Migne.
2) In Ps. 100, p. 1244.
3) Cassiodorus, who had been minister to King Theodoric, in his old age (about A.D. 540) retired into a monastery, where he gave a great impulse to literary pursuits among monks, and himself became the author of several treatises.
4) See Ephraem Syr. Opp. Grace, iii. 51.
5) The term seems to have its original in Deut. xxviii. 25, ἔσῃ διασπορὰ ἐν πάσαις βασιλείαις τῆς γῆς. It occurs often in the O. T., e.g. Deut. xxx. 4, quoted Neh. i. 9; Ps. cxlvi. 2; 2 Mace. i. 27; Judith v. 19; but not in the technical sense in which it is here employed. And though Josephus (Bell. Jud. vii. 35), and Philo (Legat. ad Caium, 1023) speak of the dispersion of the Jewish nation, they do not use this word. We have real parallels in John vii. 35, and Justin Martyr (Trypho, ii. 7).
6) One of the few examples of such influence is the saying (1 Thess. v. 2), that the day of the Lord cometh as a thief in the night. Our Lord's discourse here referred to seems to have deeply impressed His hearers (see 2 Pet. iii. 10. Rev. iii. 3, and xvi. 15).
7) See Derenbourg's Palestine, c. 15.
8) Des tableaux evidemment relatifs aux luttes interieures des classes diverses de la societe hierosolymitaine, comme celui que nous presente 1 epitre de Jacques (v. I et suiv.) ne se coioivent pas apres la revoke de 1 an 66 qui mit fin au regne des Sadduceens (UAntechrist, p. xii.).
9) See the account of James given by Hegesippus (Euseb. ii. 23).
10) Thus we may dismiss the case for 1 Thess., which rests on the common use of one word, ὁλόκληρος (1 Thess. v. 23, James i. 4); for Colossians, also depending on one word, παραλογίζεσθαι (Col. ii. 4, James i. 22); and for Philippians, with which again there is but a single coincidence, καρπὸς δικαιοσύνης (Phil. i. 11, James iii. 18), the resemblance here being much closer between James and Heb. xii. 11. I do not think any stress can be laid on the formulae apparently in common use, viz. μή πλανᾶσθε (1 Cor. vi. 9, xv. 33, Gal. vi. 7, James i. 16), and ἀλλ̓ ἐρεῖ τις (1 Cor. xv. 35, James ii. 18). With Romans, again, the following coincidences deserve little attention, παραβάτης νόμου (Rom. ii. 25, James ii. 11), νόμου τελεῖν (Rom. ii. 27, James ii. 8), the phrases being such as independent writers might naturally employ. The question of justification had probably been discussed in the Jewish schools; and the example of Abraham was one likely to have been brought forward. So the three following are the only cases which suggest to me that the verbal similarity is more than accidental:
11) There are coincidences, also, with the book of Ecclesiasticus, but they seem to me not enough to furnish a decisive proof that that book has been used. One of the most striking is Ecclus. xv. 11, 12: Μὴ εἴπῃς ὅτι διὰ κύριος ἀπέστην, ἃ γὰρ ἐμίσησεν οὐ ποιήσεις. Μὴ εἴπῃς ὅτι αὐτός με ἐπλάνησεν, οὐ γὰρ χρείαν ἔχει ἀνδρὸς ἁμαρτωλοῦ. (Compare James i. 13).
12) The Venerable Bede, in his prologue to the Catholic Epistles, printed by Cave (Hist. Lit. i. 614), says that the first place is given to the Epistle of James because he was bishop of Jerusalem, whence the Gospel preaching issued forth, and because he wrote to the Twelve Tribes, among whom were the first believers. From this fact that the Epistle of James is placed as first of the Catholic Epistles, we may infer that this collection was formed in the East, and at a time so early that the claims of James to the first place in the Church were still remembered. If it had been formed in the West, the Epistles of Peter would have come first, as they actually do in the Claromontane list (see p. 473).
In the first printed edition of the Peshitto, there is a heading describing the three Catholic Epistles which only it contains, viz., James, 1 Peter, and 1 John, as written by the three witnesses of the Transfiguration. But no MS. authority has been found for this identification of the James of the Epistle with the son of Zebedee; and this seems to rest solely on the authority of the editor, Moses of Mardin.