Discipleship and the Epistle of James

By David M. Whitchurch

David M. Whitchurch, “Discipleship and the Epistle of James,” in Go Ye into All the World: Messages of the New Testament Apostles, 31st Annual Sidney B. Sperry Symposium (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2002), 258–275.

Discipleship and the Epistle of James

David M. Whitchurch

 

David M. Whitchurch was an associate professor of ancient scripture at Brigham Young University when this was published.

 

I first became interested in the Epistle of James years ago as a religion instructor. I discovered that whenever I taught the New Testament the writings of James received little attention. By the time I reached the Epistle of James, I was far enough behind in my teaching schedule that I made a conscious decision to hurry through his writings so that I could get to those of John. In my mind, no student should miss the Revelation of St. John the Divine! Somehow it made sense. Yet each semester I felt that I was doing the scriptures (and my teaching) a disservice. One year I determined to study the Epistle of James in greater depth. What I learned enthralled me.

Historically, the Epistle of James has been shrouded in controversy. One New Testament scholar wrote, “There is no writing in the New Testament, on which critical opinion has varied so widely.” [1] Indeed, the impact of such a statement became very real for me. I recently turned in an article on the topic of James for review. The responses from the reviewers were varied and passionate. After reexamining my earlier research, I realized that many of the points made by my reviewers represented areas of scholarly debate. Although the historical intrigue and questions surrounding James are worthy of detailed study, for this paper I have determined to provide a limited overview of its background and focus my attention on the epistle’s teachings and application. I will begin with a brief historical overview, followed by a discussion of James’s teachings regarding discipleship.

Authenticity and Authorship

Two areas often debated regarding the Epistle of James include its authenticity and authorship. [2] The earliest extant manuscript fragments of James date to the third century, and the earliest available complete manuscripts from the fourth century. [3] However, the first Christian writer to mention the epistle of James dates to Origen (A.D. 185–253), an Alexandrian scholar, who makes a distinct reference to the epistle as being authored by “James the Just” and “being scripture.” [4] It may well be that Origen came into contact with the writings of James after moving from Alexandria to Palestine, where historically the early “church of Jerusalem took pride in preserving links with James, its traditional founder.” [5] This makes sense in light of the epistle’s Jewish audience. One scholar wrote regarding the Epistle of James: “There is nothing in the thought and teaching of James that does not find resonance in the world of Judaism. In fact, the theological stance of James is consistent with the basic theological perspectives of Judaism.” [6] It may well be that some of the problems associated with the epistle’s inclusion into canon stem from the fact that the Gentile Christian church was not aware of it because of its isolated use in Jerusalem; or, more likely, they saw less relevancy of its teachings to their personal needs because of the epistle’s Jewish audience.

The views regarding the authorship of the Epistle of James vary dramatically. A recent New Testament writer graphically depicted that of fifty-six twentieth century scholars, 13 percent argue that the Epistle of James was written by a non-Christian of Jewish origin, 9 percent attribute partial credit to James, 37 percent consider it to be written pseudonymously, and 41 percent conclude that it was written by James the brother of the Lord. [7] As to the traditional Catholic view, it seems to have its beginnings with Jerome, the 4th century Christian scholar, who struggled with the notion of a familial relationship between James and Jesus. He resolved his conflict by concluding that the books authorship must be James the son of Alphaeus (see Matthew 10:3). This view largely continues within the Catholic tradition today. [8]

The Protestant position frequently attributes the authorship of James with James the brother of the Lord (see Galatians 1:19; Matthew 13:55). The reasoning comes in part from the writings of Josephus, a first century Jewish historian, who identified James as “the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ” [9]; and Eusebius, a fourth century Christian historian who indicated that following Paul’s “appeal unto Caesar” (Acts 25:11), the Jews of Jerusalem turned their attention toward “James the Lord’s brother, who had been elected by the apostles to the episcopal throne at Jerusalem.” [10] These statements, together with scriptures that depict James as sympathetic toward the Gentile gathering and, at the same time, supportive of some elements of Mosaic law (see Acts 15:13–20; 21:18–20; Galatians 2:9, 12), guide many to conclude that the Epistle of James was written by James the brother of Jesus.

When examining the statements and writings of prophets and leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on James, Presidents Heber J. Grant [11] and Joseph Fielding Smith [12] both make reference to James as an “Apostle,” while Elder Bruce R. McConkie states, “The author of this General Epistle is not known for certain. It is generally believed by Biblical scholars that he is that James who is identified as being the Lord’s brother.” [13]

Dating the Epistle of James

There is much evidence to suggest the Epistle of James can be dated prior to the destruction of the Second Temple (A.D. 70). The justification for such a dating partially comes from the text itself. One scholar stated, “There are no signs of heresy or schism, . . . no marks of incipient gnosticism, whether speculative or even, as we might expect in this Epistle, moral . . . such as is characteristic of Jewish Christianity in the latter half of the New Testament.” [14] External evidence also suggests an early dating. Josephus records that upon the death of Herod Agrippa I the political stability of the Holy Land dramatically deteriorated along with the hope of economic security due to prevailing famine in the region. [15] Although dates are speculative, these economic and social conditions during this period are reflective of the type of message the Epistle of James delivers. [16]

Martin Luther and the Epistle of James

One last historical controversy worth noting about the Epistle of James deals with the disparaging reviews made about it by Martin Luther. For Luther, the writings of James argued directly against his view that man was justified by faith alone and not by works (compare Romans 3:28; Galatians 2:16; James 2:14–18). Luther, unable to resolve such a conflict, relegated James to the end of his translated volume of the New Testament and did not assign it any number in the table of contents. [17] Luther viewed these books as profitable for edification but believed they should not be given full canonical authority. [18] Luther’s statements make his feelings clear regarding the writings of James. For example, in Luther’s 1522 “Prefaces to New Testament,” he characterizes James as an “epistle of straw” in comparison to those of Paul, Peter, and the Gospel of John, which “show you Christ.” [19] On another occasion he said of James, “He throws things together so chaotically that it seems to me he must have been some good, pious man, who took a few sayings from the disciples of the Apostles and thus tossed them off on paper.” [20] To help justify his position regarding faith and salvation, Luther dismissed the Epistle of James by saying it was not written by an Apostle. [21] Certainly such caustic discourse influenced many a religious leader as they preached and wrote to their respective audiences.

The Meaning of True Discipleship

Before examining the content of James’s writings, it may be helpful to discuss the concept of discipleship. The word disciple as used in the New Testament derives from the Greek mathetes and indicates those who direct their minds to something. The substantive meaning denotes “pupil” and implies relationship to a teacher. [22] In regards to Jesus, discipleship requires a willingness to leave everything (see Matthew 10:37–39) and obediently follow the teachings and commandments of Christ (see Matthew 9:9). Elder Neal A. Maxwell said: “This journey of deepening discipleship, therefore, is not one step but many. It is the work of this lifetime, and more. Indeed, as already shown, our journey actually began long, long ago.” [23]

Discipleship looms large in the mind of anyone committed to the gospel of Jesus Christ. It mandates fidelity and consistency. The test of true discipleship may find its greatest expression during episodes of trial and tribulation. Certainly, discipleship requires commitment of heart and mind. Elder Maxwell stated, “True discipleship is for volunteers only.” [24] Furthermore, he indicated that “much more burdening than that avoidable fatigue, however, is the burden of personal frailties. Almost all of us as members fail to lighten our load for the long and arduous journey of discipleship. We fail to put off the childish things—not the tinker toys, but the temper tantrums; not training pants, but pride. We remain unnecessarily burdened by things which clearly should and can be jettisoned. No wonder some are weary and faint in their minds (see Hebrews 12:3).” [25]

We enter into this pathway of discipleship when we take upon us the name of Christ (see Mosiah 5:5–7). The word or name of Christ when examined from a scriptural perspective is not simply used as a label of identification; instead, it becomes “an expression of the essential nature of its bearer. A man’s name reveals his character. . . . In Hebrew as in Babylonian thought, name is inextricably bound up with existence. Nothing exists unless it has a name. . . . To cut off a name, therefore, is to end the existence of its bearer.” [26] Thus, life is indispensably connected to taking upon us the name of Christ. This is accomplished through covenant (see Mosiah 5:5). King Benjamin stated it simply and succinctly: “And now, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name” (Mosiah 5:7; emphasis added). When we take upon us the name of Christ, the very personality and innermost self “exercises a constraint upon its bearer. . . . Hence a change of name accompanies a change in character.” [27] Therefore, discipleship, in effect, changes the very essence of one’s character and transforms us into new creatures (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Discipleship

To understand the Epistle of James and its implication toward discipleship, we begin by looking at James’s audience and his own commitment (discipleship) to Jesus Christ. James commences his epistle, “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting” (James 1:1). Shortly after the martyrdom of Stephen, Luke explained, “And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem” (Acts 8:1). This persecution resulted in the scattering of Christian Jews to cities such as Damascus (see Acts 9:2, 10, 19) and likely far beyond (see Acts 8:4). It should be no surprise then, that James addresses his letter “to the twelve tribes, which are scattered abroad” (James 1:1). The identification of the Jews as the “twelve tribes” is consistent with scripture from the time of the Babylonian captivity. For example, in speaking to Ananias of Damascus the Lord commanded him to “Go thy way: for [Saul] is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel (Acts 9:15; emphasis added). As indicated earlier, James’s epistle resonates to the world of Judaism. Even his name brings to mind the Jewish nature of his letter. The name James is the King James Version substitute for the Greek Iakobos or Jacob—a name found throughout the Old Testament in reference to the father of the twelve tribes of Israel. Such symbolism should not be lost in the King James translation.

Immediately following his introduction, James demonstrates his commitment to the Savior by indicating he is a “servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.” That single phrase evokes depth of commitment and determination to serve. The Greek word for servant is doulos, which means “bondman or slave.” Metaphorically, it is “one who gives himself up to another’s will; those whose service is used by Christ in extending and advancing his cause among men.” [28] Thus, from the very beginning of his letter, James outwardly declares to his audience that he is duty-bound to do all that God and His Son, Jesus Christ, demand of him. In a way, he presents himself as the epitome of one who follows his own counsel.

No greater introduction could be given for any disciple of Jesus. President Hugh B. Brown, a member of the First Presidency, tells the story of being called as an Assistant to the Twelve Apostles in 1953. While working as an attorney for an oil company in Edmonton, Alberta, he described how it looked like he would soon become a multimillionaire. However, prior to achieving such worldly success he experienced feelings of tremendous depression and uneasiness. The prayers that followed led him to an assurance that all would be well. President Brown stated: “That night at 10:00 o’clock, October 1953—the telephone rang. Sister Brown answered. She called me and said, ‘Salt Lake’s calling.’ . . . I took the phone and said, ‘Hello.’ ‘This is David O. McKay calling. The Lord wants you to give the balance of your life to Him and His Church.’” President Brown responded to that call and left all that he had to serve the Lord. He concludes his story by stating, “The men with whom I was associated have made millions,” and yet he was willing to leave all that he had to serve God. [29] Such is the message of doulos. Unlike the rich young ruler described by Matthew, true disciples give their all to follow Jesus Christ when called upon to do so (see Matthew 19:16–22).

Perfection versus Double-Mindedness

Rather than the chaotic text described by Luther, the message of James presents itself as both unified and harmonious. James’s message is the message of Christ: [30]

“My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.

“But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing” (1:2–3; emphasis added).

James wants his hearers to strive for perfection. Such is the message of Jesus: “Ye are therefore commanded to be perfect, even as your Father who is in heaven is perfect” (JST Matthew 5:50). The word perfect translates from the Greek teleos and signifies “fulfillment,” “fully,” or “to the end.” [31] In God’s plan the true test of Christianity means overcoming tribulation. For James, we should “count it all joy” (James 1:2) when we are tried, for only through testing can ultimate perfection be realized (James 1:4).

James proceeds to outline the particular challenges disciples face and how best to overcome them. Perfection can only be achieved when we avoid duplicity, or, as James calls it, “double-mindedness” (James 1:8, 4:8). True discipleship means uniting inner belief with outward behavior in a manner consistent with God’s expectations. What we do on the Sabbath day may be far more telling than anything we say about keeping it holy.

Actions reveal our true belief of Christ. The theme is ageless. In the Book of Mormon, Nephi teaches that upon entry into the waters of baptism and reception of the Holy Ghost that we “must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ. . . feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end” (2 Nephi 31:20). In the Old Testament, those that serve God are commanded to “love the Lord their God with all [their] heart, and all [their] soul, and all [their] might” (Deuteronomy 6:5; emphasis added). Jehovah constantly condemned the ancient Saints for forsaking Him in favor of other gods (see Isaiah 46:1–11; Jeremiah 2:13). Elijah demanded to know from his apostate constituency, “How long halt ye between two opinions?” (1 Kings 18:21).

James systematically provides examples of what it means to resist double-mindedness:

“Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.

“For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass [mirror]: for he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was” (James 1:22–24).

Then, as if to make certain his audience understands, James says, “If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain” (James 1:26). Greek translations for vain include “devoid of force,” “useless,” or “of no purpose.” [32] True religion, therefore inner belief, lacks force, is useless, and has no purpose unless one’s behavior manifests inner belief. James continues:

“If there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile [dirty] raiment;

“And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay [goodly] clothing . . . are ye not then partial [or double-minded] in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?” (James 2:2–4).

James again teaches the principle of unified action and belief when he says:

“If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food,

“And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?” (James 2:15–16).

There is no escape—double-mindedness in its various manifestations excludes us from discipleship and therefore from perfection.

A case for the damning nature of duplicity can be seen in the story of John E. Page. During a general conference of the Church held on 6 April 1840, Elder Orson Hyde addressed the conference at length regarding a mission to Jerusalem. Following his remarks a motion carried that Elder Hyde proceed on his mission. Elder Page then “spoke with much force on the subject of Elder Hyde’s mission.” [33] Two days later Joseph Smith Jr. “stated that since Elder Hyde had been appointed to visit the Jews, he had felt an impression that it would be well for Elder John E. Page to accompany him on his mission.” [34] What followed demonstrates the dangers of faltering commitment. Although Elder Page left for the mission, by the time he reached Philadelphia Elder George A. Smith met him and advised him to sail to England and catch up to Elder Hyde. Elder Page rejected the proposition, even though he had sufficient money to do so. [35] In time John E. Page was excommunicated from the Church. Faith without works is dead (see James 2:17).

James provides additional insights into nonconformity and its counterproductive influence on discipleship and how double-mindedness derails perfection. He addresses how even the spoken word betrays our fidelity to Christ. Not only must faith be manifest through deed, it must also be evidenced through speech. Ancient literature demonstrates that in “Hellenistic moral teaching that speech was dangerous and, in order to avoid error, either silence or brevity was best . . . a bias that was shared as well by Jewish wisdom.” [36] James provides several examples of how such a small bodily appendage as the tongue effects the behavior of the whole body (see James 3:3–8). He declares:

“Therewith [the tongue] bless we God . . . and therewith curse we men. . . .

My brethren, these things ought not so to be (James 3:9–10; emphasis added).

In our day we are no less vulnerable to double-mindedness. President Brigham Young stated it most plainly when he said, “If I attain to the knowledge of all true principles that have ever existed, and do not govern myself by them, they will damn me deeper in hell than if I had never known anything about them.” [37] President Gordon B. Hinckley warned: “And as we move forward into a wonderful future, there are what some may regard as the lesser commandments but which are also of such tremendous importance. I mention the Sabbath day. The Sabbath of the Lord is becoming the play day of the people. It is a day of golf and football on television, of buying and selling in our stores and markets.” Then to make the point, President Hinckley asks, “Are we moving to mainstream America as some observers believe? In this,” he says, “I fear we are.” [38]

James identifies yet another trial that the Saints in his day must overcome—economic disparity (James 2:1–10). Duplicitous behavior and economic class distinction go hand in hand. Ancient Israel was certainly challenged and condemned for these wrongs. In Amos, the Lord rebukes His covenant people “because they sold the righteous for silver, and the poor for a pair of shoes” (James 2:6). The sins of “pride,” “fullness of bread,” and refusal to “strengthen the hand of the poor and needy” were sins of Sodom (Ezekiel 16:49).

The basis of the prophetic insistence that the wealthy help the poor is embodied in Israelite law (see Leviticus 19:9–10). James describes the problem by saying, “Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted: but the rich, in that he is made low” (James 1:9–10). In an attempt to provide perspective, James tells his brethren that if they can just be patient, there will come a time when the heavy-handedness of the wealthy will fade (James 1:10). James pursues his theme of poverty as he condemns Church members for giving undue benevolence to the wealthy at the expense of the poor (James 2:1–4). Instead of members being sympathetic to the poor, the Saints had become their own enemies and were reminded:

“Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?

“But ye have despised the poor. . . . Do not they [the rich] blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called?” (James 2:5–7).

Boethius, a fifth-century Christian philosopher, said of riches: “When riches are shared among many it is inevitable that they impoverish those from whom they pass. How poor and barren riches really are, then, is clear from the way that it is impossible for many to share them undiminished, or for one man to possess them without reducing all the others to poverty.” [39] To achieve perfection we must relinquish our dependency upon temporal wants and set our hearts upon the affairs of God. To do so means to treat all people with equality, regardless of social class or status. Jesus also warned against this form of double-mindedness by reminding His disciples that it is impossible to “serve God and mammon,” mammon being an Aramaic word meaning “earthly goods” [40] (Matthew 6:24).

James continues his theme of the wealthy and their inequitable treatment of the poor. This time he leaves out the endearing term “my brethren” (James 5:1) and states:

“Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you.

“Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are motheaten.

“Your gold and silver is cankered [rusted or tarnished]; and the rust [venom or poison] of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire” (James 5:1–3).

James concludes his comments to the wealthy by condemning their hiring practices along with their luxurious lifestyle (see James 5:4–6).

It is no surprise that the trials derived from the economic disparity manifest themselves in both directions. President Ezra Taft Benson said: “Pride is a sin that can readily be seen in others but is rarely admitted in ourselves. Most of us consider pride to be a sin of those on the top, such as the rich and the learned, looking down at the rest of us (see 2 Nephi 9:42). There is, however, a far more common ailment among us—and that is pride from the bottom looking up. It is manifest in so many ways, such as faultfinding, gossiping, backbiting, murmuring, living beyond our means, envying, coveting, withholding gratitude and praise that might lift another, and being unforgiving and jealous.” [41]

In addition, King Benjamin warns the poor that they must remain guiltless by not condemning others because they “have not” (Mosiah 4:24). As stated earlier, true disciples must eliminate every type of disparity since God’s people must be “of one heart and one mind, and [dwell] in righteousness; and [have] no poor among them” (Moses 7:18).

James has made it clear that the trial and test of this life is both living and being what we profess. From the outset, he declares that we should rejoice in this test because it brings us ever closer to completion or, as he calls it, perfection (James 1:4). James provides a clear unwavering answer how we can avoid double-mindedness and achieve perfection: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him” (James 1:5). James’s solution is wisdom! Even at this point, James warns of the consequences of double-mindedness: One must either “ask in faith, nothing wavering” or be tossed and driven like a wave before the wind (James 1:6; emphasis added).

In our day, President Benson has said, “The Lord will increase our knowledge, wisdom, and capacity to obey when we obey His fundamental laws. This is what the Prophet Joseph Smith meant when he said we could have ‘sudden strokes of ideas’ which come into our minds as ‘pure intelligence.’. . . This is revelation. We must learn to rely on the Holy Ghost so we can use it to guide our lives and the lives of those for whom we have responsibility.” [42] Wisdom, therefore, is the key to receiving knowledge that unifies our will with His.

For James, wisdom is the “good gift” and “perfect gift” from above (James 1:17). This is the gift that descends “from the Father . . . with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1:17). President Brigham Young stated that, “There is no doubt, if a person lives according to the revelations given to God’s people, he may have the Spirit of the Lord to signify to him his will, and to guide and to direct him in the discharge of his duties, in his temporal as well as his spiritual exercises. I am satisfied, however, that in this respect, we live far beneath our privileges.” [43]

The wisdom of God eliminates double-mindedness. James warns that not all wisdom is from God. He specifically cautions against earthly wisdom that manifests itself through “bitter envying,” “strife,” “confusion,” and “every evil work.” This type of wisdom is “sensual” and “devilish” (James 3:14–16). The characteristics of earthly wisdom are the antithesis of godly wisdom, which is “pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy” (James 3:17). Each of these qualities lucidly describe what it means to be a disciple or pupil of Christ. For when divine wisdom is sought after and received, that is when behavior and belief intertwine to become one. The catalyst for receiving “every good gift,” including wisdom, is prayer, born of a sincere heart (James 1:4–5, 17). James warns his brethren, not to be lured away after the things of the world because of lust, which causes them to pray for that which they ought not (James 1:14–15; 4:1–3). The end result of such behavior “bringeth forth death” (James 1:15).

Regardless of the controversy surrounding the Epistle of James’s historical background, its message is of preeminent importance. Its powerful homiletic style directs us ever closer to greater discipleship. Throughout his text he addresses members of the Church [44] who are faced with the challenges of “snobbery, oppression, strife, self-righteousness, hypocrisy, greed, [and] worldliness.” [45] When combined with economic disparity, and self-justification, the Epistle of James becomes a prophetic voice to guide us toward discipleship in a modern age that parallels those to whom he wrote. James concludes his letter by reminding us to “be patient . . . unto the coming of the Lord” (see James 5:7). With patience we must find humility—a willingness to draw nigh unto God and submission of our will to His (see James 4:8). It requires us to resist the devil (James 4:7), free ourselves from resentment (James 4:11; 5:9), mourn for our sins (James 4:9), and purify our hearts (James 4:8). Only then can we escape double-mindedness (James 4:8). The Epistle of James truly becomes a prophetic voice which will guide us toward ever greater discipleship. When we take upon us Christ’s name through covenant, our thoughts, speech, and behavior become inextricably bound with His. His Divine will manifests itself to us directing us ever closer to the Christ—where peace, harmony, happiness, and the “crown of life” abound (James 1:12).

Notes

[1] Ernest Findlay Scott, The Literature of the New Testament (New York: Columbia, 1936), 210.

[2] James B. Adamson, James: The Man and His Message (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1989), 3.

[3] Luke Timothy Johnson, The Letters of James (New York: Doubleday, 1995), 4.

[4] Peter H. Davids, The Epistle of James: A Commentary on the Greek Text (Grand Rapids: Mich.: Eerdmans, 1982), 7. The Epistle of James is not included in the Muratorian Canon, ca. A.D. 200 or the Cheltenham List, ca. 359 (see David Noel Freedman, et al., eds., The Anchor Bible Dictionary [New York: Doubleday, 1992], 3:621, s.v. “James Epistle of” ) .

[5] Freedman, Anchor Bible Dictionary, 3:621. Other early Christian writers such as Tertullian (A.D. 160–215), Eusebius (A.D. 260–340), Jerome (A.D. 346–420), and Augustine (A.D. 354–430) provide differing views on its authenticity (see Adamson, James: The Man and His Message, 150; Johnson, The Letter of James, 135).

[6] Patrick J. Hartin, A Spirituality of Perfection: Faith in Action in the Letter of James (Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press, 1999), 7.

[7] Davids, The Epistle of James, 4.

[8] Freedman, Anchor Bible Dictionary, 3:622; and David Hutchinson Edgar, Has God Not Chosen the Poor? The Social Setting of the Epistle of James (Sheffield, England: Sheffield Academic Press, 2001), 19.

[9] William Whiston, trans., Josephus: Complete Works (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel, 1960), Antiquities XX:IX.l.

[10] Eusebius of Caesarea, The History of the Church from Christ to Constantine, trans. G. A. Williamson (New York: Dorset Press, 1965), 99.

[11] Francis M. Gibbons, Heber J. Grant: Man of Steel, Prophet of God (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1979), 88.

[12] Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1966), 5:188.

[13] Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1980), 3:245. See also the Bible Dictionary, 709, s.v. “James, Epistle of.”

[14] Quoted in Adamson, James: The Man and His Message, 26.

[15] Paul L. Maier, trans., Josephus Antiquities (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel, 1994), 280–81. For an excellent overview of historical context and economic circumstances of the day, see Peter H. Davids, New International Greek Testament Commentary: The Epistle of James (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1982), 33.

[16] Even though James’s epistle mentions trials, it never states the type of challenges the Saints are facing (James 1:2–3). His allusion to fighting and warring among the members is vague (James 4:1–2). It could be symbolic representation demonstrating the spiritual consequences of their greed. There seems to be little debate that the Jewish people as a whole, including Christian members, had to contend with persecution directed at them from Rome. Part of this longstanding persecution resulted from the Jews themselves who were of the “opinion that it was unlawful for them to pay taxes to an idolatrous master . . . “ Edward Gibbon in his book, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, wrote, “It might therefore be expected that [Rome] would unite with indignation against any sect or people which should separate itself from the communion of mankind, and, claiming the exclusive possession of divine knowledge, should disdain every form of worship except its own as impious and idolatrous.” It may well be that very few of the tribulations James refers to were attributable to Rome. A careful reading of James suggests that many of the trials resulted from selfishness, greed, and economic disparity existing among themselves. Even though Rome may have contributed in many ways to the social climate, The Pax Romana, in all likelihood, provided a certain degree of protection for the Saints. The more open and forceful persecution and intolerance seen in other writings of the New Testament seems to come much later. It wasn’t until Nero and his placement of responsibility for the burning of Rome upon the Christians (A.D. 64) that we see intense, open persecution (see Edward Gibbon, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, 111; see also Adamson, James: The Man and His Message, 29).

[17] Along with Jude, Hebrews, and Revelation. James Hardy Ropes, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle of St. James (New York: Charles Scribners Sons, 1961), 106–7.

[18] Ibid. Other statements by Luther refer to James as a “really dangerous and bad book” and on one occasion he even threatened to burn the writings of James when he said, “For you will judge that none of it must be set forth contrary to manifest Holy Scripture. Accordingly, if they will not admit my interpretations, then I shall make rubble also of it. I almost feel like throwing Jimmy into the stove, as the priest in Kalenberg did.” Quoted in Adamson, James: The Man and His Message, ix. The preacher of Kalenberg burned wooden statues of the Apostles when visited by a duchess (see Lewis W. Spitz, ed., Luther’s Works: Career of the Reformer IV [Philadelphia: Muhlenberg, 1960], 34:317).

In fairness to Luther, it should also be stated that these terse views do not negate the importance of his accomplishments and the work he achieved regarding the Reformation. Several statements by leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints give powerful testimony regarding the importance of Martin Luther. He played an important part in bringing about the conditions necessary for a latter-day restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ. President Ezra Taft Benson stated, “The great religious leaders of the world such as Mohammed, Confucius, and the Reformers, as well as the philosophers—Socrates and others—received a portion of God’s light . . . to enlighten whole nations and to bring a higher level of understanding to individuals” (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1988], 271–72). President Gordon B. Hinckley said of the Reformation, “Would there ever have been a Reformation without the certitude that drove with boldness such giants as Luther, Huss, Zwingli, and others of their kind?” (“Faith: The Essence of True Religion,” November 1981, 6). Lastly, Elder McConkie says of Martin Luther, “In its very nature Romans is an epistle capable of differing interpretations. Those without prior and full knowledge of the doctrines involved find it exceedingly difficult to place Paul’s comments about these doctrines into their true perspective. For instance, it is on a misunderstanding of the Apostle’s statement about justification by faith alone that the whole sectarian world is led to believe that men are not required to work out their own salvation; and it was this very passage that enabled Martin Luther to justify in his own mind his break with Catholicism, an eventuality of vital importance to the furtherance of the Lord’s work on earth (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1970], 2:212–13; emphasis added).

[19] E. Theodore Bachman, ed., Luther’s Works: Word and Sacrament I (Philadelphia, Penn.: Muhlenberg, 1960), 35:362.

[20] Ibid, 397.

[21] Ibid, 396.

[22] Gerhard Kittel and Gerhard Friedrich, eds., Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, trans. Geoffrey W. Bromily (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1985), 555–56.

[23] Neal A. Maxwell, But for a Small Moment (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1986), 110.

[24] Maxwell, Not My Will, But Thine (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1988), 89.

[25] Maxwell, Men and Women of Christ (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1988), 3–4.

[26] George A. Buttrick, ed., The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible (New York: Abingdon Press, 1962), 3:500–501.

[27] Ibid., 501–2.

[28] LDS Collectors Library ‘97, Lexicon of New Testament Greek, s.v. “doulos.”

[29] Hugh B. Brown, “Eternal Progression,” address to the student body, Church College of Hawaii, 16 October 1964, 8–10.

[30] At least 36 parallels exist from the writings of James to those of Jesus in the Synoptic Gospels. Davids, The Epistle of James, 47–48.

[31] Kittel, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, 1161.

[32] LDS Collectors Library ‘97, s.v. “mataios.”

[33] B. H. Roberts, ed., History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1976), 4:106.

[34] Ibid, 4:109.

[35] Ibid, 4:372.

[36] Johnson, The Letters of James, 256.

[37] John A. Widtsoe, comp., Discourses of Brigham Young (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1978), 429.

[38] Gordon B. Hinckley, “Look to the Future,” Ensign, November 1997, 64.

[39] V. E. Watts, trans., Boethius: The Consolation of Philosophy (New York: Penguin, 1969), 65.

[40] The word mammon “most probably derives from the root ‘mn (‘that in which one trusts’).” In the New Testament it denotes “earthly goods” and stresses their materialistic character (see Kittel, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, 552, s.v. “Mamonas”).

[41] Ezra Taft Benson, “Beware of Pride,” Ensign, May 1989, 5.

[42] Ezra Taft Benson, “Principle with a Promise,” Ensign, 1983, 54.

[43] Widtsoe, Discourses of Brigham Young, 33.

[44] James uses the phrase “brethren” or “my brethren” fifteen times throughout his letter.

[45] Adamson, James, 26.