Epistle of James
| Light iron-age reading|
|Gabbin' with God|
The Epistle of James is a rather short book in the New Testament. It consists mostly of admonitions to live holy lives, to refrain from quarrels among the believers, to be patient, slow to speak, and slow to wrath, and to care for widows and orphans. It also contains instructions on how to conduct faith healing, by anointing the sick with oil.
Of particular note is chapter 5, a section dealing with the rich. They shall weep and moan over their lost riches, which they have made on the backs of the poor by exploiting their labor. They have unjustly withheld wages from their workers who toil in the fields, and the workers cry out for vengeance against the rich. Their riches shall be as eaten by moths and rotted away. Wait, is this the Bible, or is this Eugene V. Debs speaking?
On the other hand, James says that wars and quarrels among people come from passions waging war in our members. Sigmund Freud could probably have a field day with this one.
In chapter two, James clarifies a misunderstanding which had arisen from the teachings of Paul of Tarsus concerning whether works such as circumcision are necessary for salvation. Paul says no. James agrees that works of law are not required, but he says that faith which is not accompanied by good works (like feeding the poor) is dead. This didn't sit well with Martin Luther, who called this book an "epistle of straw" and tried to get it tossed out of the canon.
It's also noteworthy that although supposedly written by Jesus's brother James, it says almost nothing about Jesus. It was probably written in the late 1st or early 2nd century (despite James being martyred in the 60s), and seems to be by someone with strong literary skills able to write elegant Greek, which doesn't exactly fit with authorship by James, although one possibility is that it was later modified or edited. It only gradually entered into the canon, with Origen in the early 3rd century apparently the first to mention it.