There are three main choices:


1. James, the son of Zebedee. Martyred AD 44 (see Acts 12:2)
2. James, the son of Alphaeus. Little is known about him.


3. James of Jerusalem (“James the Just”). This one is favoured.

He was Jesus’ kinsman (see Mark 6:3). Resurrecion Witness (see 1 Cor 15:7). “Pillar of the Church” (see Gal 2:9). Tradition tells us that he was Bishop of Jerusalem and Martyred in AD 62 (Stoned, clubbed or thrown off the Temple)


Here is a rough timeline:

30 AD (Approx) – Jesus’ Ministry

40 AD

50 AD (Approx) – Council of Jeruaslem

60 AD (Approx) – Epistle of James

70 AD (Approx) – Jerusalem Temple Destroyed


The letter is addressed to “The twelve tribes in the dispersion”. There are three possible interpretations for this:

1. Exiled Hebrew Christians (“diaspora”)
2. Christians fleeing persecution
3. Universal Church scattered throughout the world

I prefer (3) as it encompasses (1) and (2) and makes it addressed to us too 🙂 Either way, this letter is grouped with the Catholic (universal) epistles.

Literary Forms

The document includes several different literary forms:

* Letter (The opening)
* Homily (The exhorations)
* Diatribe (The “conversational” parts)
* Wisdom (Proverbs and illustrations)
* Judgement Oracles (warnings)

Main Themes

The central themes of James include:

1. Practical aspects of religious life (speech, charity, behaviour etc) drawing on Jesus’ teaching from Matthew’s Gospel

2. The coming of the Lord

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