on James 1 :1
James, a servant of God - For an account of this person, or rather for the conjectures concerning him, see the preface. He neither calls himself an apostle, nor does he say that he was the brother of Christ, or bishop of Jerusalem; whether he was James the elder, son of Zebedee, or James the less, called our Lord's brother, or some other person of the same name, we know not. The assertions of writers concerning these points are worthy of no regard. The Church has always received him as an apostle of Christ.
To the twelve tribes - scattered abroad - To the Jews, whether converted to Christianity or not, who lived out of Judea, and sojourned among the Gentiles for the purpose of trade or commerce. At this time there were Jews partly traveling, partly sojourning, and partly resident in most parts of the civilized world; particularly in Asia, Greece, Egypt, and Italy. I see no reason for restricting it to Jewish believers only; it was sent to all whom it might concern, but particularly to those who had received the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ; much less must we confine it to those who were scattered abroad at the persecution raised concerning Stephen, Acts 8:1, etc.; Acts 11:19, etc. That the twelve tribes were in actual existence when James wrote this epistle, Dr. Macknight thinks evident from the following facts:
"1. Notwithstanding Cyrus allowed all the Jews in his dominions to return to their own land, many of them did not return. This happened agreeably to God's purpose, in permitting them to be carried captive into Assyria and Babylonia; for he intended to make himself known among the heathens, by means of the knowledge of his being and perfections, which the Jews, in their dispersion, would communicate to them. This also was the reason that God determined that the ten tribes should never return to their own land, Hosea 1:6; Hosea 8:8; Hosea 9:3, Hosea 9:15-17.
2. That, comparatively speaking, few of the twelve tribes returned in consequence of Cyrus's decree, but continued to live among the Gentiles, appears from this: that in the days of Ahasuerus, one of the successors of Cyrus, who reigned from India to Ethiopia, over one hundred and twenty-seven provinces, Esther 3:8, The Jews were dispersed among the people in all the provinces of his kingdom, and their laws were diverse from the laws of all other people, and they did not keep the king's laws; so that, by adhering to their own usages, they kept themselves distinct from all the nations among whom they lived.
3. On the day of pentecost, which happened next after our Lord's ascension, Acts 2:5, Acts 2:9, There were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven; Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, etc.; so numerous were the Jews, and so widely dispersed through all the countries of the world.
4. When Paul traveled through Asia and Europe, he found the Jews so numerous, that in all the noted cities of the Gentiles they had synagogues in which they assembled for the worship of God, and were joined by multitudes of proselytes from among the heathens, to whom likewise he preached the Gospel.
5. The same apostle, in his speech to King Agrippa, affirmed that the twelve tribes were then existing, and that they served God day and night, in expectation of the promise made to the fathers, Acts 26:6.
6. Josephus, Ant. i. 14, cap. 12, tells us that one region could not contain the Jews, but they dwelt in most of the flourishing cities of Asia and Europe, in the islands and continent, not much less in number than the heathen inhabitants. From all this it is evident that the Jews of the dispersion were more numerous than even the Jews in Judea, and that James very properly inscribed this letter to the twelve tribes which were in the dispersion, seeing the twelve tribes really existed then, and do still exist, although not distinguished by separate habitations, as they were anciently in their own land.
Greeting - Χαιρειν· Health; a mere expression of benevolence, a wish for their prosperity; a common form of salutation; see Acts 15:23; Acts 23:26; 2 John 1:11.
on James 1 :1
James, a servant of God - On the meaning of the word "servant" in this connection, see the note at Romans 1:1. Compare the note at Plm 1:16. It is remarkable that James does not call himself an apostle; but this does not prove that the writer of the Epistle was not an apostle, for the same omission occurs in the Epistle of John, and in the Epistle of Paul to the Philippians, the Thessalonians, and to Philemon. It is remarkable, also, considering the relation which James is supposed to have borne to the Lord Jesus as his "brother" (Galatians 1:19; Introduction, 1). That he did not refer to that as constituting a ground of claim to his right to address others; but this is only one instance out of many, in the New Testament, in which it is regarded as a higher honor to be the "servant of God," and to belong to his family, than to sustain any relations of blood or kindred. Compare Matthew 11:50. It may be observed also (Compare the introduction, Section 1), that this term is one which was especially appropriate to James, as a man eminent for his integrity. His claim to respect and deference was not primarily founded on any relationship which he sustained; any honor of birth or blood; or even any external office, but on the fact that he was a "servant of God."
And of the Lord Jesus Christ - The "servant of the Lord Jesus," is an appellation which is often given to Christians, and particularly to the ministers of religion. They are his servants, not in the sense that they are slaves, but in the sense that they voluntarily obey his will, and labor for him, and not for themselves.
To the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad - Greek "The twelve tribes which are in the dispersion," or of the dispersion (ἐν τῇ διασπορᾷ en tē diaspora). This word occurs only here and in 1 Peter 1:1, and John 7:35. It refers properly to those who lived out of Palestine, or who were scattered among the Gentiles. There were two great "dispersions;" the Eastern and the Western. The first had its origin about the time when the ten tribes were carried away to Assyria, and in the time of the Babylonian captivity. In consequence of these events, and of the fact that large numbers of the Jews went to Babylon, and other Eastern countries, for purposes of travel, commerce, etc., there were many Jews in the East in the times of the apostles. The other was the Western "dispersion," which commenced about the time of Alexander the Great, and which was promoted by various causes, until there were large numbers of Jews in Egypt and along Northern Africa, in Asia Minor, in Greece proper, and even in Rome. To which of these classes this Epistle was directed is not known; but most probably the writer had particular reference to those in the East. See the introduction, Section 2. The phrase "the twelve tribes," was the common term by which the Jewish people were designated, and was in use long after the ten tribes were carried away, leaving, in fact, only two of the twelve in Palestine. Compare the notes at Acts 26:7. Many have supposed that James here addressed them as Jews, and that the Epistle was sent to them as such. But this opinion has no probability; because:
(1) If this had been the case, he would not have been likely to begin his Epistle by saying that he was "a servant of Jesus Christ," a name so odious to the Jews.
(2) and, if he had spoken of himself as a Christian, and had addressed his countrymen as himself a believer in Jesus as the Messiah, though regarding them as Jews, it is incredible that he did not make a more distinct reference to the principles of the Christian religion; that he used no arguments to convince them that Jesus was the Messiah; that he did not attempt to convert them to the Christian faith.
It should be added, that at first most converts were made from those who had been trained in the Jewish faith, and it is not improbable that one in Jerusalem, addressing those who were Christians out of Palestine, would naturally think of them as of Jewish origin, and would be likely to address them as appertaining to the "twelve tribes." The phrase "the twelve tribes" became also a sort of technical expression to denote the people of God - the church.
Greeting - A customary form of salutation, meaning, in Greek, to joy, to rejoice; and implying that he wished their welfare. Compare Acts 15:23.
on James 1 :1
1:1 A servant of Jesus Christ - Whose name the apostle mentions but once more in the whole epistle, James 2:1. And not at all in his whole discourse, Acts 15:14, and c.; or Acts 21:20 - 25. It might have seemed, if he mentioned him often, that he did it out of vanity, as being the brother of the Lord. To the twelve tribes - Of Israel; that is, those of them that believe. Which are scattered abroad - In various countries. Ten of the tribes were scattered ever since the reign of Hosea; and great part of the rest were now dispersed through the Roman empire: as was foretold, Deut 28:25, and c.30:4. Greeting - That is, all blessings, temporal and eternal.