•After his miraculous release from prison, Peter told the believers to “tell James and the brothers about this” (Acts 12:17), placing him in prominence over the other leaders of the church.
•James spoke for the Jerusalem council in their decision to accept the conversion of Gentiles to faith in Christ (Acts 15:13-21).
•When Paul visited the Jerusalem church three years after his conversion, he met with Peter for 15 days but “none of the other apostles–only James, the Lord’s brother” (Galatians 1:19).
•Paul listed “James, Peter and John” as the “pillars” of the early church (Galatians 2:9).
•He described a delegation coming from Jerusalem to the Gentile church at Antioch as “from James” (Galatians 2:12).
•When Paul brought the Collection to Jerusalem at the conclusion of his third missionary journey, Luke records that “Paul and the rest of us went to see James, and all the elders were present” (Acts 21:18). This is the last mention of James in the New Testament.
•Clement of Alexandria (born approx. AD 160), in the sixth book of his Hypotyposes, states that “Peter and James and John, after the Saviour’s ascension, though pre-eminently honoured by the Lord, did not contend for glory, but made James the Just, bishop of Jerusalem” (Ante-Nicene Fathers 2:579).
•Jerome (AD 492) adds that “he ruled the church of Jerusalem 30 years, that is until the seventh year of Nero” (Lives of Illustrious Men ch. 2; Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers 3:362). Nero ruled Rome from AD 54-68, so that James died in AD 62.
From the third century, the large majority of interpreters have identified the Letter of James with James the Just, half-brother of Jesus.
•Origen (AD 185-253), Eusebius (c. 265-340) and Jerome (c. 340-420) all favored this position.
•The vocabulary of James’s speech (Acts 15:13-21) and the letter it inspired (vs. 22-29) is similar to that of the epistle:
a.The salutation “greetings” (chairein) is found in the NT only in Ac 15:23, James 1:1, and Acts 23:26
b.James 2:7, “the noble name of him to whom you belong,” is paralleled in the NT only at Acts 15:17, “who bear my name”
c.”Name” in James 2:7; 5:10, 14; and Acts 15:14, 26 is not used elsewhere in the NT in the same sense
d.James’ allusions to the OT (Acts 15:14, 16-18, 21) are consistent with the epistle
e.”Brothers” is common to the epistle (James 1:2, 9, 16, 19; 2:5, 15; 3:1; 4:11; 5:7, 9, 10, 12, 19) is found also in Acts 15:13, 23
f.Note James 2:5, “Listen, my dear brothers” and Acts 15:13, “Brothers, listen to me” (Oesterley, Expositor’s Greek Testament 4:392).
•James’ authority (Acts 15:13; 21:18) coheres with the authoritative nature of the epistle (with its 46 imperatives).
•Jerome (AD 492) states of him, “after our Lord’s passion at once ordained by the apostles bishop of Jerusalem, wrote a single epistle, which is reckoned among the seven Catholic Epistles” (Jerome 361).
What happened to him?
We have no record of James after Paul’s visit in Jerusalem (Acts 21:18). But he is mentioned prominently in the post-biblical literature. His character was known and admired:
•Hegesippus, writing a commentary near the time of the apostles, calls him “the brother of the Lord” and identifies him further: “as there were many of this name, was surnamed the Just by all, from the days of our Lord until now” (Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 2:23).
•He then describes his character: “This apostle was consecrated from his mother’s womb. He drank neither wine nor fermented liquors, and abstained from animal food. A razor never came upon his head, he never anointed with oil, and never used a bath. He alone was allowed to enter the sanctuary. He never wore woolen, but linen garments. He was in the habit of entering the temple alone, and was often found upon his bended knees, and interceding for the forgiveness of the people; so that his knees became as hard as a camel’s, in consequence of his habitual supplication and kneeling before God. And indeed, on account of his exceeding great piety, he was called the Just” (ibid).
He may have been a mentor to Stephen, the first martyr.
•Ignatius (A.D. 30-107), in his letter to the Trallians, asks, “what are the deacons but imitators of the angelic powers, fulfilling a pure and blameless ministry unto him, as the holy Stephen did to the blessed James, Timothy and Linus to Paul, Anencletus and Clement to Peter?” (ch. 7).
•We know James the Just to have been an important figure in the Jerusalem church, though James the brother of John was still alive at Stephen’s death (cf. Acts 12:2). So we cannot be sure of the identity of “the blessed James,” though it is likely that he was James the Just.
His martyrdom (AD 62) was the subject of extended interest as well:
•Josephus describes his death: the high priest Ananus “was a bold man in his temper, and very insolent; he was also of the sect of the Sadducees, who were very rigid in judging offenders, above all the rest of the Jews, as we have already observed; when, therefore, Ananus was of this disposition, he thought he had now a proper opportunity . . . so he assembled the Sanhedrim of the judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others, and when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned” (Antiquities 20:9:1).
•The circumstances which led to his death are noted by Hegesippus: as a Passover neared, the Jewish leaders positioned James on a wing of the temple and asked him to persuade the crowds “not to be led astray by Jesus.” His response: “‘Why do you ask me respecting Jesus the Son of Man? He is now sitting in the heavens, on the right hand of great Power, and is about to come on the clouds of heaven.’ And as many were confirmed, and gloried in this testimony of James, and said, Hosanna to the son of David, these same priests and Pharisees said to one another, ‘We have done badly in affording such testimony to Jesus, but let us go up and cast him down, that they may dread to believe in him'” (Eusebius, ibid).