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
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.
The document includes several different literary forms:
* Letter (The opening)
* Homily (The exhorations)
* Diatribe (The “conversational” parts)
* Wisdom (Proverbs and illustrations)
* Judgement Oracles (warnings)
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