Appendix to James Part 2

Posted: Fri. Dec, 20 2019

Support for 44 AD- 48 AD as the time period for when James was written

These Jewish  saints had been dispersed abroad according to James 1:1.  They had been forced to leave their home city or region.

Jewish Christians were dispersed abroad after the stoning of Stephen in Acts 7:59.  This occurred in 34 AD.   This dispersion (scattering) is described in more detail in the main article in the section about the original audience.

So the absolute earliest that this letter of James could have been written was 34 AD.

However, material in the letter suggests that a few years had passed since the dispersion.

First, the Jewish saints had established their own synagogues (JAM 2:2).  They may have met in a private home or in a communal building. It would have taken time to gather the resources for this purpose.

Second, some of the Jewish Christians had businesses (JAM 4:13).   It would have taken years to get settled in a new land and build up a successful business.

Third, there had been at least one, and probably several, harvests (JAM 5:4).

Fourth, the rich in James 5:1-6 had seen their riches rot and their garments become moth-eaten.  Again, this decay would have taken several years.

But  the strongest indication that the letter of James was written years after the dispersion is the status of James, the author. 

We have seen that the author of this letter of James was the half-brother of the Lord.

He first appears on the scene in the book of Acts in Acts 12:17.

Acts 12:16-17
But Peter continued knocking; and when they had opened the door, they saw him and were amazed. 17 But motioning to them with his hand to be silent, he described to them how the Lord had led him out of the prison. And he said, "Report these things to James and the brethren."

This happened soon after James the son of Zebedee was put to death with a sword.  He was killed in in 44 AD.

Peter could not have been talking about James the son of Zebedee in Acts 12:17 because that James had been already been killed, in Acts 12:2.  In fact, it’s likely that James the half-brother of the Lord stepped into the leadership vacated by the deceased  James.

In any event, in 44 AD Peter considered James to be a leader of the church in Jerusalem.  

By the time that James wrote his letter, he was so well known as a leader of the Jerusalem church that he only needed to use his first name in the salutation of that letter.

By the time of the Jerusalem Council in 48 AD, James was the undisputed leader of the Jerusalem Church (Acts 15:13-20).

At the Jerusalem Council of 48 AD, Paul and Barnabas traveled to Jerusalem to meet with the apostles and elders concerning the issue of whether Gentile believers had to be circumcised and observe the Law of Moses.

Paul wrote the letter to the Galatians soon afterwards. Galatians is about the same subject that the Jerusalem Council deliberated - whether circumcision was required for Gentile believers.

In the letter to the Galatians, Paul mentions James (GAL 2:9-12).    However, James does not mention Paul in his letter, nor does he refer to the Jerusalem Council.

There is one city where the Jewish believers from the dispersion and Gentile believers would have come into contact with one another.   That was the city of Antioch.  

Jewish Christians had been dispersed to Cyprus, and some of them came to Antioch and began preaching the Lord Jesus to the Gentiles there.  News of these Gentile believers reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem. (Acts 11:19-22)

After Paul’s first missionary journey, he returned to Antioch, where he spent a long time with the disciples there.

While he was there, men came down from Judea and began teaching the brethren in Antioch that they could not be saved unless they were circumcised.  (Acts 15:1).

The teachings that these men brought to Antioch triggered the need for the Jerusalem council.

Both Barnabas and Peter  had already taught that salvation was  by grace through faith ( ACT 11:21-24; ACT 15:7,9, 11.  And of course this was the gospel that Paul preached as well.

From Antioch, versions of this teaching would have spread to the rest of the Jewish Christians who had been scattered.  It would have changed hands several times and, like the game of telephone, the version that got back to James in Jerusalem could easily have been very different from what Paul and Barnabas actually taught.

Also,  James does not mention Barnabas or Paul by name in his letter.  This indicates that James did not associate the teaching he was combating with either Barnabas or Paul.

However, by the time that  the Jerusalem Council had ended,  the apostles and elders for the Jews (Peter, John and James) understood Paul’s message of justification by grace through faith, and had given their approval.

James teaches on faith, works, salvation, and justification in chapter 2 of his letter.   But he is talking about something completely different from Paul.  Paul talks about eternal issues while James talks about temporal issues.

If James had written his letter after the Jerusalem Council, he almost certainly would have distinguished his teaching from Paul’s teaching in order to prevent any confusion (or further misrepresentation!). 

Therefore the letter of James almost certainly had to have been written before 48 AD when the Jerusalem Council convened.


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