Feast upon the Word Blog

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Sunday School Lesson #42

Posted by Jim F. on October 19, 2007

Lesson 42: James

Begin with a pedantic note: We do not know who the author of this epistle was. It does not give us information about its author, and we know of several persons named James in the early Church. However, many have believed it was James, the brother of Christ and the presiding elder in Jerusalem after Christ’s death. (See, for example, Acts 15:13, where he presides over the Jerusalem conference called to deal with the Gentiles joining the early Church.)

Assuming for sake of the lesson that James the brother of Christ was the author of this letter, what do we know about Jesus’ family’s relation to him prior to the crucifixion? (See, for example, John 7:1-5.) When do you think James became a follower of Christ? Is 1 Corinthians 15:7 relevant? Does that verse suggest any reason that James might be more sympathetic to Paul than we sometimes assume?

Chapter 1

Verse 1: James describes himself as a servant, in the King James translation, but “bond servant” or “slave” would be more accurate translations. Why would an Apostle of the Lord describe himself as a slave, even of God? Is it relevant that most Romans and Greeks of the day would have found it shocking for someone to refer to himself as a slave since being enslaved was thought to be like or worse than death? (However, Romans and Greeks did sometimes also use the term to describe their relation to a particular god, though evidently the term is used only in religions that they had adopted from the Near East. See Dibelius’s commentary on James, in the Hermeneia series, page 65.) Are only leaders such as apostles and prophets slaves of God, or does the term aptly apply to all Christians? Old Testament prophets also referred to themselves as “servants,” in other words, slaves, of God. Does James intend that specific connection to be part of what his audience hears? If so, why would he? Does the fact that this is addressed to “the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad” tell us anything about what kind of letter it is? Do we have any reason to believe that it is addressed to the Christian converts among the twelve tribes? To what modern prophetic and apostolic writing might we compare this letter?

Verses 2-4: The word translated “temptations” also means “trials.” (The Greek word can mean either, but “trials” seems to fit the context better here.) Does it mean anything that the first topic addressed in the letter is trial? What kinds of trials do you think he is referring to? (Compare verse 13.) How can we count our trials as “complete joy”? Early Christians sometimes consoled themselves in the face of difficulty by reminding themselves that the Second Coming was imminent. (See, for example, Mark 13:7.) However, James does not console his readers in that way. He uses an ethical argument as consolation: suffering produces endurance. (In verse 3, the word translated “patience” could also be translated “endurance.” Indeed, that probably should be the translation.) What kind of consolation is that? Reading verses 2 and 3 together, you will notice that “various trials” and “testing of your faith” are parallel: James intends them to mean the same. How is suffering a test of faith? How does the testing of our faith bring about endurance? Why doesn’t James explain how this happens; why does he simply state it as a fact and leave it at that? Verse four tells us that we should “let endurance [patience] take its complete [perfect] effect [work].” What does that mean? James explains that endurance will make us “perfect,” and he gives two synonyms for “perfect”: “entire” (or “whole”) and “lacking nothing.” This is the usual meaning of “perfect” in the New Testament—not “without flaw” or “able to do anything” (two common modern interpretations of perfection). For example, James uses the same word here for perfection that is used in Matthew 5:48, and neither of them mean “perfect, in other words flawless.” How might this understanding of perfection make us more comfortable with the possibility of being perfect in this life, even if we are not flawless in this life? In what would perfection consist if it is not flawlessness? How can the individual saint—“you” in verse 4—be the perfect, in other words complete work of endurance? How does endurance in the face of trial make it so that a person lacks nothing?

Verses 5-7: What is the connection of verse 5 to those the precede it? Notice the footnote which gives another translation for “upbraideth.” It can also be translated “ungrudgingly.” The Father gives to us generously (“liberally”) and ungrudgingly (“upbraideth not”). Is James creating an implicit contrast between the Father’s answers to prayers and our responses to those who are in need? In verse 6, notice the footnote in the LDS edition for “wavering.” It means “doubting.” Why can’t the doubter expect to receive anything from the Lord (verse 7)?

Verse 8: Is this verse the conclusion of the topic discussed in verses 5-7 or the beginning of a new topic? In either case, can you explain how it fits with the verses around it? Why does James describe doubting as being “double-minded”? Can you think of examples of what it means to be double-minded? What makes the double-minded person unstable? Is Christ saying much the same as this verse when he says that we cannot serve two masters (Matthew 6.24, Luke 16.13, and 3 Nephi 13.24)?

Verses 12-15: As in verse 2, “temptation” in verse 12 means “trial” or “test” more than it does “temptation.” Those who become approved and who love the Lord will receive a crown of glory. What does it mean to become approved? How do we do that? In verse 13 why does James warn us against saying that the Father is testing us? That seems to be a common way of speaking—what’s wrong with it? Is he warning against a particular kind of testing? Is it helpful to remember that there is only one word in Greek for both “test” and “tempt”? Which meaning do you think James intends in verse 13? How does he explain our trials of faith in verse 14? If this is an accurate way of describing our trials—if they are the result of our own lusts—what is Satan’s role in tempting / trying us? Note that “drawn away” translates a verb used to describe how a hunter lures wild game out into the open, and that “enticed” translates a verb used to describe baiting fish or bird traps. Therefore, we might loosely translate this, “Every person is tempted when he is lured out by means of his own lusts and a trap for him is baited with them.” The word translated “lust” includes what we would describe as lust as well as any other inordinate desire, so this is not just a description of how we are tempted and tried regarding sexual things (though those thing are certainly included). See Romans 7:19-23 for a similar, but more complicated description of this same point: we are tried by our own inordinate desires. What makes a desire inordinate? How do we avoid inordinate desire? In verse 15 James uses the metaphor of procreation: we have lusts that conceive and give birth to sins; in turn, they conceive and give birth to death. (Here Paul’s discussion in Romans 5:14-21 and 6:3-11 is relevant.) Why do you think he uses that particular metaphor?

Verses 21-24: “Naughtiness” (verse 21) is too weak a translation for modern English readers; “evil” would be better. See the note on “emplanted” in the LDS edition. James says that because God gives us every good thing (verse 17), we should put aside all sin and receive the gospel in humility. Why is humility necessary to receiving the gospel? How does James’s understanding of our reasons for repentance and obedience compare to Paul’s? Compare what James says here about receiving the implanted word to what Alma says in Alma 32. In what kinds of ways do we deceive ourselves about our works (verse 22)? Why is this kind of self-deception like looking in a mirror (verses 23-24)? What is the point of James’s metaphor?

Verse 25: In verses 23 and 24, James described looking at oneself in a mirror. What was the point of that metaphor? Notice the contrast he creates here: rather than to ourselves in a mirror, we should look to the “perfect law of liberty.” What is the perfect law of liberty? Why is it a law of liberty? Is 2 Nephi 2:27 relevant? How does the phrase, “perfect law of liberty,” contrast with the what we often call a Pharisaic understanding of the law? In our own lives, do we think of the law as a law of liberty, or do we think of it as something more like the Pharisaic law? What is the alternative to what has come to be called Pharisaism?

Another pedantic note: On the one hand, there can be little question that there were Pharisees of Jesus’ day for whom the Law (which meant, for them, primarily the oral law) was fundamental and to be obeyed rigorously and without bending. Nor is there much question that some of the leaders of the Pharisees were among those who plotted Christ’s crucifixion. On the other hand, most of the early Church’s first converts appear to have been from among the Pharisees. In addition, an alternative name for Pharisaic Judaism is Rabbinic Judaism, the Judaism of almost all Jews living today. We need to be careful not to assume that most Jews were or are of the character we ascribe to Pharisaism.

Verses 26-27: We commonly use the second of these verses as a proof text (to support something we are teaching, such as in a Sacrament talk), but notice that it is intended as a contrast with verse 26: verse 26 describes those who think they are religious; verse 27 describes those who really are. Why would having an unbridled tongue be a particularly apt description of the person who believes himself to be religious but isn’t? What does his tongue say that it ought not to say? Why is care of orphans and widows a particularly apt description of the truly religious? What does it mean to be “unspotted from the world”? (Compare the JST.) We might think of verse 27 as the thesis statement of James’s letter. As you read the letter, ask how each part is related to that thesis. How, for example, is James 1:5 relevant to the fact that genuine faith issues in works? How are verses 2 and 3, which remind us that we must be patient in trial and persecution, relevant to that fact?

Chapter 2

Verses 1-4: In James’s day, a gold ring was not only a sign of wealth, it was also a sign of authority. How does the kind of discrimination that he describes in these verses mean that we are “judges of evil thoughts”?

Verses 5-7: How do these verses apply to us? Who are the poor that we despise today? In the early Church, riches were almost always associated with power, and power was almost always associated with corruption. In fact, the rich were generally those who at least ignored the poor and at most abused them in order to get gain. Unlike many societies today, there was no middle class, so it isn’t obvious how we should compare their situation to our own. Today who are the equivalent of the ancient world’s despised poor? James says that the saints give precedence and honor to the rich even though the rich oppress them. Do we ever do anything that is comparable? What is the consequence of doing that? How do we avoid it?

Verses 8-9: The Greek of these verses begins with a word that could be translated “nevertheless” and which the King James translation omits. It is intended to create an explicit contrast between what has come before it and what follows it. What two ways of living is James contrasting here?

Verse 10: What does this mean? Why isn’t this a message of despair—what can give us hope in the face of such a message? If we understand this verse as reminding us that obedience to the Lawmaker is enjoined rather than obedience to the Law, does that help us understand James’s point any better? (One could, by the way, encapsulate Paul’s teaching on faith and works in that motto: “We ought to obey the Lawmaker [which means trusting him, having faith in his word and his Word] rather than merely the Law [which would mean merely doing acts in conformity with the dictates of the Law regardless of the Lawmaker: works].”

Verses 14-20: Is what James says here in conflict with what Paul taught, namely that we are saved by our faith rather than our works? (Compare Romans 3:28 and 4:4-5.) If not, why not? How can these two things be reconciled? What does verse 19 suggest about doctrinal disputes between us or between us and non-members? Why does James include what he says in verse 19 as part of talking about why works are necessary?

Verse 22: If we recall the meaning of “perfect,” in Greek, we can perhaps see that t his verse is important to understanding what James is teaching: our faith is completed in our works. How is that so? What would this mean of works that were not the result of faith?

Chapter 4

Verses 1-5: According to James what explains the “wars” that occur among the members of the Church—among the members of a family? (Here “lust” translates the Greek word hadonae, meaniang “passions” or “desires.”) If that is the cause of strife among us, what will be its cure? How does James say we try to get what we want (verse 2)? What way does he say we should go about getting those things? (“You kill, and desire to have” could also be translated “you kill and are fanatics.”) How are these verses related to James 1:27? Suppose we say, “I’ve tried that way of getting what I want and it didn’t work.” What is James’s reply (verse 3)? How does he explain the failure of our prayers? Why does he use adultery as a symbol for all evil desire (verse 4)? (The Old Testament equation of adultery with idolatry may be to the point here.) What is friendship with the world? It isn’t clear what scripture James is quoting in verse 5; perhaps it is one we no longer have.

Verses 6-8: In this verse he quotes from the Greek version of Proverbs 3:34. What does it mean to say that the Father gives grace to the humble? Is there a difference between submitting to God and resisting the devil, or are these two ways of saying the same thing (verse 7)? How do we submit to the Father? How do we draw nigh to God (verse 8)? What does it mean to cleanse our hands? How do we do it? What does it mean to purify our hearts? How do we do that? What is the difference between cleansing our hands and purifying our hearts? Notice that this verse gives us a solution to the problem of doubting (cf. 1.6-8): cleanliness of hand and purity of heart. How do they overcome our doubts?

Verses 9-10: Why is James advising them to mourn (verse 9)? It doesn’t make any sense for this to be a general admonition, since the gospel brings peace and happiness. What are the particular circumstances in which he might admonish them to mourn? What does it mean to be humble in the sight of the Lord (verse 10)? What is genuine humility? What does it mean to be lifted up?

You will find here (James – Sermon) a comparison of James and the Sermon on the Mount. That comparison might be the basis for a good Sunday School lesson. I would have included the comparison here rather than in a link, but I don’t know how to make tables in WordPress. I almost have figured out how to make the Word documents accessible. This isn’t quite right, but it will work.

23 Responses to “Sunday School Lesson #42”

  1. JWL said

    One item of background which I think students may find interesting is the view among many scholars that, whoever wrote it, the Epistle of James is the earliest book in the New Testament, probably written in the 40s CE. In light of this the many parallels with the Sermon on the Mount are particularly significant in showing us how those closest in time to Christ absorbed His teachings without the filter of later doctrinal developments. And, of course, it is even more poignant if it was really written by the oldest of Jesus’ actual siblings, who despite that clearly did not come immediately to the faith, and who we can assume went through his own process of internalizing his Brother’s teachings.

    Another value of using the Sermon on the Mount parallels to teach this lesson is that it gives the teachings but in different language. This can help us think of those teachings in practical terms “out of the box” of the sometimes too familiar (and therefore rote) language of Matthew’s Gospel, as beautiful as it is.

  2. Robert C. said

    JWL, do you happen to have any references for this idea? If I’m remembering correctly, the few scholars I’ve looked at have all taken the Epistle of James as being written after Paul’s letters (I think either Galatians or 1 Thessalonians is usually considered Paul’s first letter, written in the late 40’s at the earliest…), and partly as a response to misinterpretations of Paul. I’m curious, then, the extent to which scholars are questioning this.

    Thanks, Jim, for these notes, they seem unusually good. Though perhaps I’m saying that only because I’ve been slacking a bit in my SS study and so maybe I’m sort of rediscovering how helpful these notes and questions really are. Also, maybe it’s because this material is relatively familiar and frequently used in church (“if any man lack wisdom” in James 1, and the faith and works bit in James 2), so it’s esp. refreshing to see these passages considered more carefully and thoughtfully than is typical.

  3. JWL said

    Robert C. —

    I have seen references to the early date for James many places, but the handiest quick reference I can find is our own Kevin Barney’s introduction at

    Click to access 26_James.pdf

    The scholars who date it later do so because they see it as a reaction to Paul. However these scholars tend to be viewing the whole matter through the prism of the extreme ‘salvation by grace alone’ interpretation of Paul. Those like Latter-day Saints who disagree with this reading of Paul do not then need to see a conflict with James. Rather than reading the “faith without works” section as a reaction to an interpretation of Paul which really did not develop until centuries later, I would simply see those passages as a restatement of Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 7:21-23 (“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven”).

  4. Robert C. said

    JWL, good points, thanks—I’ll look more into this, it sounds quite interesting.

  5. KTH said

    The 1995 Harper’s Bible Dictionary lists a series of arguments against authorship by the brother of Jesus. In addition to seeing the epistle as a reaction to Paul, the other factors are “the excellent Greek” and “the debate within the ancient church regarding the authorship.” The entry concludes by saying that “while none of these objections against the traditional view [of authorship] is conclusive, collectively they make this view improbable. Can anyone suggest references to non-LDS sources supporting authorship by the brother of Jesus?

  6. JWL said

    The leading modern biblical scholar on James, Luke Timothy Johnson, accepts James the brother of Jesus as the author of the Epistle, as do most Catholic and Eastern Orthodox scholars. See for example http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08275b.htm and Johnson’s principal work cited in the Kevin Barney intro linked in comment #3 above. The arguments against the authorship of James the brother of the Lord come from either liberal scholars (who don’t believe anything in the NT was written very early) or Reformed Protestant scholars who are annoyed at the use of James by Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and LDS writers to refute Luther’s extreme justification by faith alone theology.

    As to the specific objections you mention:

    (1) The good Greek could come from James having a well-educated Greek speaking amaneusis or translator.
    (2) While canonized late in the West, it was always accepted in the East where its original audience was located.
    (3) The claim that it is a rebuttal of Paul comes from a Reformation reading of Paul. There is no evidence that this Reformation theological dispute was actually present in the early Church.

    Johnson gives numerous reasons for accepting the traditional (from at least as early as the second century) attribution of authorship to James the brother of the Lord. These include the heavily Jewish orientation of the work, the lack of reference to other NT sources except for the very earliest, i.e. the sayings of Jesus Himself (despite the argument with Paul which has been read into the epistle by later theologians), the remarkable relation to the teachings (but without direct quotation) of the Sermon on the Mount, and numerous contextual matters which are compatible with a Jerusalem setting in the 40s CE.

  7. JWL said

    With regard to the relation of the teachings of the Epistle of James to those of the Sermon on the Mount, another good comparison is in Jack Welch and John Hall’s Charting the New Testament. I have amalgamated those with the chart that Jim linked to in his comments, and will try to email it to him in case he wants to post it as well.

  8. JWL said

    KTH —

    I tried to write a longer reply to your question on authorship, but it did not post for some reason, maybe it was too long. Briefly, Luke Timothy Johnson, the leading modern scholar on James, accepts the traditional attribution of the authorship of the Epistle to James the brother of the Lord. Kevin Barney gives the reference to Johnson’s principal work in his intro linked in my comment #3 above. Many Catholic scholars also accept the traditional authorship of James the brother of the Lord. See http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08275b.htm. Without going into the specifics (like I tried to do in the comment that did not post) the questioning of James’ authorship generally comes from either liberal scholars who don’t think that anything in the NT was written very early, or Reformed Protestant scholars who are annoyed at the use of James by Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and LDS writers to question Luther’s extreme justification by faith alone theology.

  9. JWL said

    KTH —

    Luke Timothy Johnson, the leading modern scholar on James, accepts the tradtional attribution of authorship of the Epistle to James the brother of Jesus. His major work is referenced in Kevin Barney’s intro which I linked to in comment #3 above. Many Catholic scholars also accept the traditional attribution to James the brother of Jesus. See most Catholic Bible encyclopedias (I tried to link to one in a previous comment but that was never posted. I guess there is a problem on this blog with comments with external links.) Without going into the specific counter-arguments, most challenges to the authorship of James the brother of Jesus and an early date for the Epistle come from either liberal scholars (who don’t believe that anything in the NT was written contemporaneously with the lives of the Apostles other than a few of Paul’s letters) and from Reformed Protestant scholars who have always been annoyed at the use of the Epistle by Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and yes, LDS writers to challenge Luther’s extreme salvation by faith alone soteriology.

  10. Robert C. said

    (JWL, I dug through our spam heap and resurrected your comments—sorry for not catching them sooner. We’re getting a lot more spam these days and thus we’re probably missing more comments like this. The best thing to do if you don’t see your comment post after you submit it is to let us know by emailing feastZZZblog@gmail.com, without the Z’s—we really do value everyone’s thoughts and comments, so please please let us know if your comment doesn’t post!)

  11. Jim F. said

    JWL, thanks for your contributions to this discussion. However, I don’t think that the picture is as clear as you portray it. First of all, I don’t think that Johnson is the leading modern scholar on James. I don’t know who would best be described as “the leading modern scholar,” but I think that Johnson is one of many doing good work on the letter.

    Second, it isn’t only liberal Protestant theologians who question the letter’s authorship by James. See, for example, Ralph P. Martin’s introduction to the Word Biblical Commentary volume on James. That series is generally conservative, but Martin is not convinced that the author of the letter was James. He argues that it was, instead, an Antiochean editor familiar with James’s ideas and style. That editor put those ideas into the form of a letter that he wrote as if it came from James. If that is what happened, such an editor would be doing much the same kind of thing we do when Deseret Book publishes Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, for example. However, Martin also argues that those who deny any connection between the letter and James are probably wrong.

    Finally Martin thinks that a date before 48 is improbable.

    By the way, I think that Martin does a marvelous job of bringing the materials together relevant to James the brother of Jesus, explaining what we know and don’t know. He also does a good job of giving an overview of the controversy about the dating of the letter. That overview isn’t independent of his own conclusion, of course, but I think it is generally pretty good.

  12. JWL said

    I am aware that there are many views and much to be said on the question of the authorship of the Epistle. It may be one of those questions which will not be definitively answered until the Millennium. I think bringing up the subject of the traditional attribution to James the brother of Jesus (with appropriate caveats that the attribution is not settled) is useful in the context of a Gospel Doctrine class in giving the teacher an opportunity to briefly tell the class about a leader who was indisputably very important in the early Church, but about whom we wouldn’t otherwise learn much because the references to him elsehwere in the NT are so brief and scattered.

    More importantly, regardless of who wrote the Epistle, it seems to reflect a reception of Jesus’ fundamental teachings independent of the exact format recorded in Matthew’s Gospel, yet fully consistent with it. As a Gospel Doctrine teaching point it offers an opportunity to review these fundamental teachings which were covered back at the beginning of the year and to suggest that we reflect on how we would incoporate the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount in our own words in the context of our own lives.

  13. Jim F. said

    JWL, I agree completely with both of your points: (1) In a Sunday School class, it isn’t useful to do much more than assume the traditional attribution of the letter to James the brother of Jesus and, perhaps, mention that the letter’s authorship isn’t settled; (2) It is useful to show the coherence of James and the Sermon on the Mount as a review of those fundamentals of the Gospel.

  14. As an LDS my view of James’ authorship is influenced by the visionary stance of the writer, i.e. v. 1 directed “to the twelve tribes, which are scattered abroad” and the historical impact of v. 5. (Tho I understand the relevance of these statements during the time in which they were written–kind of like Isaiah addressing present and future in the same breath.) These two far-reaching salutations lead me to believe the letter was authored by a seer, not merely an ‘Antiochean editor familiar with James’s ideas and style.’

  15. Jim F. said

    ponderpaths: As you surely noticed in the study materials themselves, I didn’t take a position on the issue myself but assumed that, for teaching purposes, the best thing to do is to assume that James the brother of Christ was the author.

    However, I don’t understand the logic of your position. There are other documents which take at least as visionary a stance as does James, for example, the Testament of Abraham. Yet we don’t assume that it was written by a seer. Why should we do so in this case? Equally, why isn’t it possible that the editor was a follower of James, familiar with his ideas, writing a book in James’s name, perhaps even stitching together into a coherent whole the things he had witnessed James teach?

    A person who says that he or she does not believe that the book of James was written by the brother of Christ need not be saying that he or she doesn’t believe that the book is inspired nor that it doesn’t belong in the New Testament. I don’t think I have enough information to make a good decision about whether the traditional attribution of the book is correct, but I also don’t see that it matters very much.

  16. Does anyone know why Charting the New Testament lists only 3 James in the NT instead of including the 4th James,a son of Zebedee; brother of John; an apostle? Is there some modern revelation that merges one of these 4 men?

  17. Jim, thanks for your response #15. I think the fact that James was the catalyst book for the Restoration is a huge plus in my “logic” that it was written with prophetic foresight, literally by a Seer. Agreed, the work could have been delegated, but I think it too profound an impact upon humanity to be a “sideline writer.” It is purely my personal take, of course, and I agree that setting my personal feelings aside makes room for other plausible authors. I find it just too “perfect” for the brother of the Lord to have been such an instrument in bringing about the Restoration. I think God makes the most of such opportunitites.

  18. mhardy said

    Due to an earlier four-week stretch where I got through only two lessons, my lesson schedule is considerably behind most so I am not sure how much response or discussion this post will get. I cannot remember the source, but I seem to recall some indication that James had the privilege of entering the Holy of Holies. If that is the case, I am assuming he would have also have been the High Priest. Am out in left field on this?

  19. Clark said

    Equally, why isn’t it possible that the editor was a follower of James, familiar with his ideas, writing a book in James’s name, perhaps even stitching together into a coherent whole the things he had witnessed James teach?

    Regarding authorship I think it important to consider texts about Abraham, Moses, Enoch and so forth all revealed through Joseph Smith. Presumably the original texts, had we them, would read slightly different but with the ideas close enough. Even those who might reject most NT authorship by traditional figures ought allow for their being true.

    Then the point Jim raised is good. Even if some epistles weren’t written by Paul, James or so forth it doesn’t follow that it isn’t using their ideas. It’s akin to asking about those fragmentary notes that got turned into some sections of the D&C or even the Lectures on Faith. How much of those are Joseph and how much the scribes?

    I think we sometimes demand more of our OT and NT texts than is fair – especially when even modern texts don’t meet those standards.

  20. s james said

    JWL I was interested in the view that Catholics agreed that the author of James was the brother of Jesus given the usual claims about Mary’s ongoing virginity.
    The link in #6 identifies James the brother of the Lord as James the son of Alpheus, who is elsewhere believed to be the son of Mary, the sister of the Saviour’s mother, see for example: http://www.ewtn.com/library/MARY/JAMES.HTM
    It seems these Catholics believe the author of James to be the Lord’s cousin(brother).

  21. Jim F. said

    mhardy: Yes, if James entered the Holy of Holies, he would have been the high priest. Paul tells us that he was an apostle (Galatians 1:19–though we don’t know whether he was an apostle as a Quorum of the Twelve or on in the way that Paul was). Paul also tells us that he was one of the important figures in the Church at Jerusalem (Galatians 2:), being one of those in leadership who approved Paul’s mission to the Gentiles (Galatians 2:9). The late 2nd century writer Hegesippus tells us that James was referred to as “James the Just” because he was a devoted follower of the Mosaic Law, spending so much time praying in the temple that his knees were like a camel’s. Hegesippus also tells us that he was martyred before the destruction of the temple in 70 by being thrown off of a temple spire and then stoned and beaten to death. (All of that is from the Anchor Bible entry “James, Brother of Jesus.”)

    I didn’t have time to look in LDS sources to see whether Joseph Smith said something about James being the High Priest, but I am skeptical that he could have been since Jesus’ family was not of the lineage of the high priest. (The lineage issue is complicated by the fact that the family that held the high priesthood from Solomon onwards abdicated in the 2nd century BC. However, Jesus’ family was not part of the family that held the high priesthood at his time.)

    By the way, given the season you may be interested to know: The king whose rule caused the abdication of the rightful high priest (Onanias III, who moved to Egypt and founded a temple there), was also the king whose rule ignited the rebellion that won the the temple back and that is celebrated at Hanukkah. His name was Antiochus IV.

  22. Clark said

    Jim, I searched the online list of Joseph’s sermons and writings and it isn’t mentioned anywhere. The closest is the discssion of the transfiguration. But in that case “high priest” wouldn’t be an Aaronic one. If he did use that term, almost certainly he was referring to the office of High Priest (typically Elder or Bishop) or the level of the MP.

  23. s james said

    mhardy: see the link in #20 for reference to James entering the Sanctum or Holy Place. And later being cast from the temple battlements.

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