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An Exposition Of the Epistles Of Saint Paul And Of The Catholic Epistles Volumes 1&2

Introduction

AUTHOR OF.—Who is the St. James to whom this Epistle is attributed? There were two, who bore the name of James, mentioned among the Apostles—one, the son of Zebedee, and brother of St. John; he was put to death by Herod (Acts, 12) He is called James the Greater. The other frequently styled in Scripture the brother of our Lord, was the son of Alpheus, also called Cleophas, and of Mary, the cousin, although in SS. Scripture, frequently called the sister, of the Blessed Virgin. He was the brother of St. Jude and of Joseph, called the Just. To distinguish him from the other James, he is called James the Less, a title bestowed upon him, either on account of his age, or the lowness of his stature, or, from being called later to the Apostleship. He is also styled James, the Just, a title which it is universally agreed, he merited, owing to his eminent sanctity, so generally recognised, that it procured for him the singular veneration of the Jews themselves, by whom he was called “the just man.” To his death Josephus attributes the final destruction of Jerusalem and the total dispersion of the Jews. The true cause, Josephus appeared, or at least affected, not to understand, viz., the murder of the Son of God, whose blood they invoked on themselves and on their children. Saints Jerome and Epiphanius relate, that our Lord, at his ascension, recommended to St. James the Church of Jerusalem, of which city he was, in consequence, constituted first Bishop, by the other Apostles. He was a Nazarite, never drank wine, and was particularly distinguished for his love of prayer. Ananias the son of Annas, of whom mention is made in the Gospels, being High Priest about the year 60, when St. Paul had appealed to Cæsai, having assembled the Sanhedrim, summoned St. James before them. Josephus narrates, that he was accused of violating the laws, and handed over to the people to be stoned to death. Hegesippus adds, that they compelled him to be carried to the battlements of the temple, and would fain have compelled him to make a public renunciation of his faith in Christ; but St. James took this public opportunity of proclaiming the Divinity of Jesus Christ. He was, in consequence, hurled from the battlements, and after his fall, dispatched by a blow from a fuller’s club. This occurred in the year 62. This latter St. James, and not James the Greater, is the author of this Epistle, the best proof of which is, that in it, the inspired writer undertakes the refutation of errors which did not exist at the time St. James the Greater was put to death by Herod about the year 42, full fifteen years before St. Paul had written his Epistle to the Romans. The error referred to, which this Epistle is principally employed in refuting, was occasioned by the false interpretation of certain passages of St. Paul to the Romans. From these passages some persons inferred the absolute inutility of good works, without which St. James here clearly points out that faith is dead, and salvation, unattainable; he delivers also many other precepts of a holy life.

CANONICAL.—This, together with the following Epistles of Saints Peter, John, and Jude, are termed “CANONICAL,” either because they belong to the catalogue or canon of inspired Scripture; or, because they contain rules and precepts for the regulation of a Christian life.

CATHOLIC.—They are commonly styled “CATHOLIC,” either on account of the doctrine which they contain; or, more probably, because addressed, not to any particular church or person, as were the Epistles of St. Paul, (v.g.) to the Romans, Corinthians, Timothy, Titus, &c., but, to the whole body of the converted Jews, and intended for the instruction of the rest of the faithful throughout the entire earth.

CANONICITY OF.—The Canonicity or Divine authority of this Epistle has been called in question by Luther only, who designates it “An Epistle of straw, and unworthy of an Apostle” The unanswerable arguments which it furnishes in proof of the Catholic doctrine of good works, sufficiently account for Luther’s antipathy to it. Its Canonicity has been admitted by Calvin. The Church of England also admits it to be Divine Scripture. It is, indeed, difficult to conceive how she can do so, consistently with the sixth of the Thirty-nine Articles, which runs thus: “In, i.e., By, the name of the Holy Scripture, we understand the Canonical Books of the Old and New Testament, of whose authority was never any doubt in the Church.” Now, the authority of this Epistle of St. James was, for some time, doubted, and not always admitted in the Church. For, it is classed among the books of Sacred Scripture termed by Catholics, Deutero-Canonical, i.e., whose Canonicity had not been always, nor everywhere, received. Hence, the utter inconsistency in Protestants to receive it as Divine Scripture. But, as regards Catholics, every Catholic must believe its Canonicity, or Divine authority, as firmly as that of the Four Gospels, after the formal definition of the Council of Trent on the subject.—SS. 4ta de Canonicis Scripturis. We have the same undoubted authority for its Divine inspiration, that we have for the rest of the Scriptures—the only certain means we can have for knowing the Divine inspiration of any writing—viz., the unerring authority of the Catholic Church. The same arguments adduced in proof of the Epistle to the Hebrews, are also in favour of this. It is mentioned in all the Councils in which a catalogue of inspired books was drawn up: in the Councils of Laodicea (60th Canon), Third of Carthage (Canon 47), Council of Rome, under Gelasius, Florence, Trent. It is mentioned by Origen (Hom. 7, in Josue), Athanasius (in Synopsi), Epiphanius (Heresi, 76), St. Jerome (ad Paulinum Epistola), St. Augustine (Libro 2do de doctrina Christiana, c. 8), Gregory Nazianzen (tom. 2, page 94), Innocent I. (Epistola ad Decentium), &c.

LANGUAGE OF.—It is commonly agreed, that it was written in the Greek, the language spoken everywhere at the time, and commonly used by the Jews. Hence, we find the Greek, or Septuagint Version, indiscriminately used by the dispersed Jews, and our Redeemer and the Apostles quote from the same. St. James quotes from the Scriptures according to it (chap. 4 verse 6).

OCCASION OF.—It has been already remarked, that the object of St. James in this, as well as of the other Apostles in their Catholic Epistles, was, to refute the error of Simon Magus, of the Nicolaites, and others, regarding the sufficiency of faith alone—an error which they founded on the false interpretation of St. Paul to the Romans (St. Augustine de Fide et Operibus, c. 16). It devolved, in a particular manner, on St. James to arrest the progress of this error, having been charged with the Church of Jerusalem, which bordered on Samaria, where Simon Magus had been disseminating his pernicious doctrines.

DATE OF.—There can be nothing determined for certain respecting the particular year in which this Epistle has been written. All we know is, that it must have been written some time between the year 58—the date of the Epistle to the Romans—and the year 63, when St. James was put to death.








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