I continue now with my discussion of whether the book of James was actually written, as it implicitly claims, by the historical James, the brother of Jesus.  The issue is much bigger than whether James could write (a topic I discussed in my earlier posts).  Are the issues/concerns/interests of this book at all consonant with what we know about James himself?   The question is rarely asked, but it’s absolutely key.

Here is what I say in my book about it:


Other arguments support the claim that James the brother of Jesus almost certainly did not write the letter.  Of key importance is the fact that precisely what we know about James of Jerusalem otherwise is what we do not find in this letter.   The earliest accounts of James – one of them from a contemporary – indicate that he was especially known as an advocate for the view that Jewish followers of Jesus should maintain their Jewish identity by following the Jewish Law.  This seems to be the clear indication of Gal. 2:12 in the famous Antioch incident.  “Certain men from James” influenced Cephas no longer to eat with the Gentiles, out of “fear of those from the circumcision.”   The most sensible construction of the incident is that these “men” were representatives of James’s perspective, that he was a leader of the so-called circumcision party, and that this group of Christians, with him at the head, insisted on the ongoing importance of Jews maintaining their Jewish identity, which meant, in light of concerns stemming from rules of kashrut, not eating with Gentiles.

So too, the book of Acts.  Despite its concern for the Gentile mission and its insistence that Gentiles not convert to Judaism to be followers of Jesus, Acts portrays James as …

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