James 1:1 (ESV)
James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,
To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion:
James. Luther liked the book, but didn’t find it to be apostolic. That is he would not admit it into his canon. I am one that sides with him. Crucial to this question is the question of authorship. If it wasn’t written by an apostle, or wasn’t given apostolic approval then it just is not binding on Christians. So the debate raged over James from the time it was written up until now. Eusebius the first church historian casts doubt on its origin, but allows it to be included with the canon as “antilegoumena.’ That is a book spoken against, from which no doctrine can be drawn. It can be supported from these questionable writings, but cannot find it’s seat from there. This was the official stance of the whole church until the Council of Trent, where the church of Rome, who in no way finds itself bound to scripture as long as it has a pope to dictate doctrine, decided to vote it into the canon. They did this because it is the one place in the Bible where you will see it say that man is “Justified by works and not faith alone.” (James 2: 24).
However, one cannot just decide that a book is in the canon. It doesn’t work that way. We might decide any book is part of the canon if we allow that decision to stand. What then separates us from Mormons? Majority vote in a one sided council is not the basis for including a book in the canon. Especially if the only reason your doing it is so that you can find a bit of ammo to shoot at the other side with, and they do shoot this bullet often. Either the book has its authority in itself, or it doesn’t. The church does not decide what is in and out of the canon, otherwise the church is not led by God’s word, but the church leads concerning what is and isn’t God’s word. It just can’t work that way. It casts doubt on Scripture. We might get the impression that it was up to men to decide what is and isn’t God’s word. You can see where that might lead someone, Salt Lake City by way of Nauvoo.
Of course James isn’t the only questioned book. Hebrews falls shy of canon too! So does 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, Jude, and Revelation. There are other books that were not written by apostles, but have been included in the canon because they were approved of by apostles, such it is with Luke and Acts, as well as Mark. But these others we are a bit unsure of. They cannot be binding when it comes to doctrine, they must be held in submission to other books.
Today this sounds scandalous, but either the distinction is maintained or God’s word becomes a wax nose. I also find that those who accept James and Revelation into their canon unequivocally end up with a two book canon. That is, James and Revelation become the two books by which the rest of scripture is judged.
Paul and James can be reconciled. If they could not then James would not have made it on any canonical lists as a questioned book or otherwise. But James must be held in submission to Paul. You cannot read him in any way that would contradict what Paul wrote, or hold Paul in submission to James. And it may be best if most didn’t read him at all. That said I will be commenting on this book, and reconciling what he says to what Paul says. Though showing why it is questionable all the while.