James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes
in the diaspora: Greetings.
- James is held in church tradition to be the (half) brother of Jesus (Matt 13:55; Mark 6:3; Gal 1:9), who became the leader of the early church in Jerusalem (Acts 12:17; 15:13-19; Gal 2:9-12) despite his unbelief in Jesus prior to the crucifiction/resurection.
- Even if this is a different James writing here the only credential the writer sees fit to give is one of servanthood towards both God and Jesus.
- This is an unashamedly Christian document and yet by refering to the recipients of the letter as 'the twleve tribes' James is showing both how he understands the Christian community to be a continuation of Israel but also the fulfillment/restoration of Israel (which had been reduced to only two tribes by the time of the Roman occupation). He also demonstrates this sense of continuity in the letter by drawing heavily (and directly) on the Old Testament.
- This fulfillment/restoration though is only partial however, not least because the 'twelve tribes' are a disapora, a dispersion, a scattered people. The book of James is often refered to as a catholic (all embracing) epistle (letter) because it is not addressed to a specific situation or set of circumstances (e.g. Paul addresses infighting amoung particular factions in 1 Corinthians 3) but is a more general letter aimed at a wider audience, although still within a certain historical and cultural context.