The Epistle of James refers to the writings of James, the Bishop of Jerusalem, the Lord's brother and one of the Twelve Apostles. It may be one of the earliest written works of the New Testament, possibly as early as the late 40s. There is reason to conclude that this letter was written prior to the Jerusalem Council, which was held in A.D. 50. The authenticity of this inspired work has been fully accepted since at least the third century, as demonstrated by the various lists of the Sacred books drawn up since the fourth century, although debate continues about who actually wrote it.
In support of James as the author, as the Epistle indicates, is its simplicity of introduction of the author (who would be familiar to all) and linguistic similarities between this Epistle and a speech given by James in Acts of the Apostles chapter 15.
The quality of the Greek in the Epistle of James is higher than the Greek written by Apostles, which further suggests that this Epistle was written by a relative of Jesus rather than by an average disciple. The only higher form of Greek in the New Testament is the Epistle to the Hebrews, which may have been written by Jesus himself, although this has been disputed. (See Mystery:Did Jesus Write the Epistle to the Hebrews?)
Martin Luther had difficulty with the Epistle of James as it did not easily fit his concept of justification by faith alone as James also seems to stress the importance of works. Nevertheless, he kept it as a part of the New Testament canon in Protestant Churches. Luther's tirade against James's Epistle parallels contemporary slanders propagated by apostate Protestantism which brands any emphasis on law-keeping alongside faith as "legalism" and "denying grace."
Martin Luther wrote in his 1599 preface that the St. James Epistle is really "an epistle of straw" compared to Apostle John's Gospel and his first epistle, to St. Paul's epistles, especially Romans, Galatians, and Ephesians, and to Apostle Peter's first Epistle, because of its insistence on works as a requirement for justification to life and its rejection of faith alone without works (sola fide). He afterward removed the "straw" statement, insisting that the Epistle was good.
In the very early Universal Church years (1st and 2nd centuries A.D.), some of this work was disputed as to authenticity and scattered among churches.
- ↑ Epistle of St. James Catholic Encyclopedia
- Epistle of Straw? - Twelve Tribes (twelvetribes.org)
- Six Points on Luther's "Epistle of Straw", James Swan - Alpha & Omega Ministries (aomin.org).