Who is James?
(the same as "Jacob," the supplanter). 1. James the Elder, one of the three favorite apostles, a son of Zebedee and Salome, and a brother of John the evangelist. With Peter and John, he was present at the raising of Jairus's daughter, the transfiguration, and the agony in Gethsemane. He was beheaded by order of King Herod Agrippa, and became the first martyr among the apostles, a.d. 44, thus fulfilling our Saviour's prediction concerning the baptism of blood. Matt 4:21; Matt 20:20-23; Ex 26:37; Mark 1:19-20; Mark 10:35; Acts 12:2. His apostolic labors seem not to have extended beyond Jerusalem and Judaea. Clement of Alexandria relates that the accuser of James on the way to the place of execution, stung by remorse, confessed faith and asked forgiveness; whereupon James said to him, "Peace be with thee!" gave him a brotherly kiss, and had him for a companion in martyrdom. His place was filled partly by James the brother of the Lord, partly by Paul. 1. James the Less, or the Little, also one of the twelve apostles, a son of Alpheus and Mary. Mark 15:40; Mark 16:1; Matt 10:3; Matt 27:56; Acts 1:13. He labored, according to the tradition of the Greek Church (which distinguishes him from James, the brother of the Lord), in the south-western part of Palestine, afterward in Egypt, and was crucified in Lower Egypt. He is regarded by many as a cousin of Jesus. 1. James, "the brother of the Lord," Gal 1:19; comp. Matt 13:55; Mark 6:3, or simply James, Acts 12:17; Acts 15:13; Gen 21:18; Gal 2:9; 1 Cor 15:7. By ecclesiastical writers he is also called James "the Just" and "the bishop of Jerusalem." Commentators are divided as to his relation to James the Less. Some identify him with the younger apostle of that name, and regard him simply as a cousin of Jesus, while others distinguish the two, and understand the designation "brother of the Lord" in the strict sense either of a uterine brother or a half-brother of Jesus. See Brother and Brethren of Jesus. It is certain, from the Acts of the Apostles, that this James, after the dispersion of the disciples and the departure of Peter, Acts 12:17, occupied the most prominent position in the church of Jerusalem, and stood at the head of the Jewish converts. He presided at the apostolic council, and proposed the compromise which prevented a split between the Jewish and the Gentile sections of the church. Acts 15 and Gal 2. He stood mediating between the old and the new dispensations, and conformed very nearly to the Jewish traditions and temple-service as long as there was any hope of a national conversion. He stood in high repute even among the Jews, but nevertheless was (according to Josephus) sentenced to be stoned by the Sanhedrin, a.d. 62. Hegesippus, an historian of the second century, puts his martyrdom later, A.D. 69, shortly before the destruction of Jerusalem, and adds that he was thrown by the Pharisees from the pinnacle of the temple, and then despatched with a fuller's club while on his knees, in the act of praying for his murderers. Epistle of James, "a servant (not an apostle) of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ," the same who is also called "the brother of the Lord." It is one of the catholic or general Epistles, and consists of five chapters. The design of the Epistle is, (1) To correct errors into which the Jewish Christians had fallen, especially relating to justification by faith; (2) To animate their hope, and strengthen their faith, in view of afflictions felt and feared; and (3) To excite the unbelieving Jews to repentance toward God and faith in the rejected Messiah. It is remarkable that the name of our blessed Lord occurs but twice in this Epistle, but with great reverence as the divine Master, Jas 1:1, and as "the Lord of glory." Ruth 2:1. The gospel is described as the perfect law of freedom. The Epistle strongly resembles the preaching of John the Baptist and the Sermon on the Mount. The main stress is laid on works rather than faith. It enforces an eminently practical Christianity which manifests itself in good fruits. Its doctrine of justification, ch. Jas 2, apparently conflicts with that of Paul, Rom 3-4, but in reality the two apostles supplement each other, and guard each other against abuse and excess. James opposes a dead orthodoxy, an unfruitful theoretical belief, and insists on practical demonstration of faith, while Paul, in opposition to Pharisaical legalism and self-righteousness, exhibits a living faith in Christ as the principle and root of all good works. The one judges the tree by its fruit, the other proceeds from the root. The Epistle of James was written before a.d. 62, perhaps much earlier, probably from Jerusalem, the scene of his labors, and is addressed to the twelve tribes scattered abroad, Jas 1:1 -that is, either to all the Jews of the Dispersion, or only to the Jewish Christians, as to the true spiritual Israel. The style is lively, vigorous, and impressive. What kindling words on patience in suffering, joy in sorrow, heavenly wisdom, the power of prayer as the most certain unfailing thing, from deep personal experience! There is a resemblance between the Epistle and the pastoral letter of the Council of Jerusalem, which was no doubt written by the same James as the presiding officer; both have the Greek form of "greeting," Acts 15:23; Jas 1:1, which otherwise does not occur in the N.T. or is changed into "grace and peace." This is an incidental proof of the genuineness of the Epistle. The theory recently advocated by Bassett (Commentary on fhe Catholic Epistle of St. James, London, 1876), that it was written by the elder James, the son of Zebedee, before a.d. 44, has little to support it. He assumes that the Epistle was addressed to all the Jews of the dispersion with the view to convert them by a moral rather than doctrinal exhibition of Christianity.