Page images

oil, and never used a bath. He only was licensed to enter into the holy places, for he wore not woollen, but linen only. And he was wont to enter alone into the temple, and was often found on his knees supplicating forgiveness for the people; so that his knees grew hard like those of a camel, on account of his evermore kneeling in worship to God asking remission for the people; and because of the abundance of his righteousness he was called the Just, and Oblias “.” And without taking all this as literal fact, it at least shews us the character which he bore, and the estimation in which he was held.

27. That such a person, when converted to the faith of Jesus, should have very soon been placed in high dignity in the Jerusalem church, is not to be wondered at. The very fact of that church being in some measure a continuation of the apostolic company, would, in the absence of Him who had been its centre beforetime, naturally incline their thoughts towards one who was the most eminent of His nearest relatives according to the flesh: and the strong Judaistic tendencies of that church would naturally group it around one who was so zealous a fautor of the Law.

28. This his pre-eminence seems to have been fully established as early as the imprisonment of St. Peter, Acts xii. ': i. e. about A.D. 44 : which would allow ample time for the reasonable growth in estimation and authority of one whose career as a disciple did not begin till the Ascen. sion of our Lord, i. e. 14 years

before. 29. From this time onward, James is introduced, and simply by this name, as the president, or bishop, of the church at Jerusalem. In the apostolic council in Acts xv. (A.D. 50), we find him speaking last, after the rest had done, and delivering, with his “ I, for my part, adjudge ..." (ver. 19), that opinion, on which the act of the assembly was grounded. On St. Paul reaching Jerusalem in Acts xxi. (A.D. 58), we find him, on the day after his arrival, entering in to James," and it is added, "and all the elders were present :” shewing that the visit was a formal one, to a man in authority.

30. Thenceforward we have no more mention of James in the Acts. In Gal. i. 19, St. Paul relates, that at his first visit to Jerusalem after his conversion he saw " James the brother of the Lord :" but without any

4 The interpretation of this word is quite uncertain.

5 Thus—for we can hardly suppose it to have been a sudden thing-we should have it already subsisting during the lifetime of the greater James, the son of Zebedee: one additional argument for distinguishing this James from James the less, the son of Alphæus.

6 For these dates, see the Chronological Table in the Introdu to the Act It has been objected, that it would be unlikely that one who at the Ascension was not a believer, should so soon after be found in the dignity of an Apostle. But the ob. jectors forget, that less than half the time sufficed to raise one, who long after the Ascension was à persecutor and injurious, to the same dignity. Vol. II. PART II.-215


mark, unless the title "apostle," there given him, is to be taken as such, that he had then the pre-eminence which he afterwards enjoyed. The date of this visit I have set down elsewhere as A.D. 407.

31. In the same apologetic narrative in the Epistle to the Galatians, St. Paul recounts the events, as far as they were germane to his purpose, of the apostolic council in Acts xv. And here we find James ranked with Cephas and John as “pillarsof the church. At some shortly subsequent time, probably in the end of A.D. 50 or the beginning of 51, we find, from the same narrative of St. Paul, that certain from James" came down to Antioch, of whose Judaistic strictness Peter being afraid, prevaricated, and shrunk back from asserting his Christian liberty. This speaks for the influence of James, as it does also for its tendency.

32. At the time when we lose sight of James in the Acts of the Apostles, he would be, supposing him to have been next in the Holy Family to our Blessed Lord, and proceeding on the necessarily somewhat uncertain inference deducible from the plain sense of Matt. i. 25, about sixty years of age.

33. From this time we are left to seek his history in tradition. We possess an account in Josephus of his character and martyrdom : “Ananus (the high priest) thinking that he had a convenient opportunity, Festus being dead and Albinus not yet arrived, summons an assembly of the judges : and bringing before it the brother of Jesus who was called Christ, James by name, and some others, he accused them of having broken the laws, and delivered them over to be stoned.”

34. Further particulars of his death are given us from Hegesippus, by Eusebius: but they do not seem to tally with the above account in Josephus. According to Hegesippus, whose narrative is full of strange expressions, and savours largely of the fabulous, some of the seven sects of the people (see Eus. H. E. iv. 22) asked James, what was the door of Jesus'?” And by his preaching to them Jesus as the Christ, so many of them believed on Him, that “ many even of the rulers believing, there was a tumult of the Jews and Scribes and Pharisees, saying that the whole people was in danger of receiving Jesus as the Christ.” On this they invited James to deter the people from being thus deceived, standing on the “pinnacle of the templeat the Passover, that he might be seen and heard by all. But, the story proceeds, when he was set there,

[ocr errors]

7 See the Chronological Table, as above.

8 Because there were also sisters of our Lord, and more than two, or the word “allcould not have been used of them, Matt. xiii. 55.

9 On this expression, Valesius says, “ Door, in this place, means, introduction or institution and initiation. Thus the door of Christ is nothing else than faith in God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, &c.” But this seems doubtful, and the expression enigmatical.

and appealed to by them to undeceive the people, he "answered with a loud voice, 'Why ask ye me concerning Jesus the Son of man? For He sitteth at the right hand of the Supreme Power, and will one day come on the clouds of heaven.' On this, many were confirmed in their belief, and glorified God for his testimony, and cried Hosanna to the Son of David. Whereat the Scribes and Pharisees said to one another, “We did foolishly in giving occasion for such a testimony to Jesus : but let us go up and cast him down, that the people may be struck with fear and not believe him.' And they cried out, saying, 'O, O, the Just one is deceived."" So they went up, and cast him down: and said to one another, “Let us stone James the Just.' And they began to stone him : for the fall had not killed him, but he turned and knelt and said, 'I pray Thee, O Lord God the Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.' And while they were stoning him, a priest, one of the sons of Rechab, cried out, “What are ye doing ? the Just one is praying for you.' And one of them from among the fullers taking the club with which he beat clothes, with it struck the Just one on the head. And thus he suffered martyrdom. And they buried him on the spot, and his pillar yet remains by the temple."

35. This last sentence seems wholly inexplicable, considering that long before it was written both city and temple were destroyed. And the more so, as Hegesippus proceeds to say, that immediately upon St. James's martyrdom, Vespasian formed the siege of the city. He adds, “James was so wonderful a man, and so renowned for his righteousness among all men, that the thoughtful among the Jews believed that this was the cause of the siege of Jerusalem immediately after his martyrdom, and that this happened to them for no other reason than the crime which was perpetrated against him.” And he quotes from Josephus, “Now these things happened to the Jews in vengeance for James the Just, who was brother to Jesus which was called Christ: because he was a very righteous man, and was slain by the Jews :" but no such passage as this latter is now found in Josephus.

36. The character of St. James is sufficiently indicated in the foregoing notices. He appears to have been a strong observer of the law, moral and ceremonial: and though willing to recognize the hand of God in the Gentile ministry of Paul and Barnabas, to have remained himself attached to the purely Judaistic form of Christianity.

“ Had not,” observes Schaff, in his Church History, “a Peter, and above all a Paul, arisen as supplementary to James, Christianity would perhaps never have become entirely emancipated from the veil of Judaism and asserted its own independence. Still there was a necessity for the ministry of James. If any could win over the ancient covenant people, it was he. It pleased God to set so high an example of Old Test. piety in its purest form among the Jews, to make conversion to the Gospel, 217

p 2

even at the eleventh hour, as easy as possible for them. But when they would not listen to the voice of this last messenger of peace, then was the measure of the divine patience exhausted, and the fearful and longthreatened judgment broke forth. And thus was the mission of James fulfilled. He was not to outlive the destruction of the holy city and the temple. According to Hegesippus, he was martyred in the year before that event, viz. A.D. 69."

37. If we adopt the above hypothetical calculation (par. 32), he would be, at the date of his martyrdom, about 71 years of age. The various particulars of his connexion with our present Epistle will be found in the following sections.




1. It is evident from the contents of the Epistle, that it was written for Christian readers. The Writer calls himself a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ," and addresses the readers throughout as his “ brethren." In ch. i. 18 he says that God has begotten us by the word of truth : in ch. ii. 1 he addresses them as having the faith of Jesus Christ the Lord of glory : in id. ver. 7, he speaks of the “worthy Name" by which they were called : and in ch. v. 7, he exhorts them to patience on the ground that the coming of the Lord was Besides which, the whole passage, ch. ii. 14, proceeds on the manifest supposition that writer and readers had one and the same faith.

2. At the same time, the address of the Epistle, “ to the twelve tribes which are in the dispersion,which will not bear a spiritual meaning, but only the strictly national one, quite forbids us from supposing that Christians in general were in the Writer's view. Believing Jews, and they only, were the recipients of the Epistle. Not the words of the address, but the circumstances of the case, and the language of the Epistle, exclude those who did not believe.

3. This Judaistic direction of the letter is evident from ch. ii. 2, where the word "synagogue” is used to denote the place of assembly : from ib. 19, where monotheism is brought forward as the central point of faith : from ch. v. 12, where in the prohibition of swearing, the formulæ common among the Jews are introduced: from ib. ver. 14, where anointing with oil is mentioned. And not only so, but all the ethical errors which St. James combats, are of that kind which may be referred to carnal Judaism as their root.

4. Huther, from whom I have taken the foregoing paragraphs of this section, remarks that the argument against faith alone without works is no objection to the last-mentioned view, but is rather in refutation of this same Jewish error, which was the successor of the Pharisaical confidence in the fact of possessing the law, without a holy life: see Rom. i. 17 ff. Justin Martyr says of the Jews : “ They say that even if they be sinners, but know God, He will never impute sin to them." There is indeed no trace in the Epistle of an anxious and scrupulous observance of the Mosaic ritual on the part of the readers : but this may be because in the main on this point the Writer and his readers were agreed. And we do find in it traces of an erroneous estimate of the value of mere “ religious service” (ch. i. 22 ff.): and a trace of fanatical zeal venting itself by "wrath."

5. The situation of these Judæo-Christian churches or congregations, as discernible in the Epistle, was this. They were tried by manifold trials, ch. i. 2. We are hardly justified in assuming that they were entirely made up of poor, on account of ch. i. 6, 7: indeed the former verses of that chapter seem to shew, that rich men were also found among them. However, this probably was so for the most part, and they were oppressed and dragged before the judgment-seats by the rich, which trials they did not bear with that patience and humility which might have been expected of them as Christians, nor did they in faith seek wisdom from God concerning them : but regarded Him as their tempter, and their lowliness as shame, paying carnal court to the rich, and despising the poor.

6. As might have been expected, such worldliness of spirit gave rise to strifes and dissensions among them, and to a neglect of self-preservation from the evil in the world, imagining that their Christian faith would suffice to save them, without a holy life.

7. There is some little difficulty in assigning a proper place to the rich men who are addressed in ch. v. 1 ff. They can hardly have been altogether out of the pale of the Christian body, or the denunciations would never have reached them at all: but it is fair to suppose that they were unworthy professing members of the churches.

8. It must be owned that the general state of the churches addressed, as indicated by this Epistle, is not such as any Christian teacher could look on with satisfaction. And it is extremely interesting to enquire, how far this unsatisfactory state furnishes us with any clue to the date of our Epistle: an enquiry which we shall follow out in our next section.

9. The designation " in the dispersion" need not necessarily limit the readers to the. Jewish churches out of Palestine : but the greater circumference may include the lesser; the term “ dispersionmay be vaguely used, regarding Jerusalem as the centre; and as in Acts viii. 1, where we read “and they all were dispersed throughout the lands of Judæa and Samaria,”--the exception being the Apostles, who remained in Jerusalem,—may comprehend Palestine itself.

« PreviousContinue »