It seems safe to assume that there are few individuals within early Christianity that have been more neglected than James. But this wasn’t always the case. In fact, there was once a day when such a statement would have been utterly unthinkable. James has traditional been understood as a prominent leader in the city of Jerusalem—well known among the Apostles. But how prominent was James’ influence during this period? Did he have an authority that overextended that of the Apostles? How would a first-century Christian have understood his leadership amid the Apostolic ministry of figures like Peter and Paul? The historical response to these questions may come as a complete surprise to many readers. Could James have actually been more than just another apostolic leader? Has the majority of Christian history unintentionally neglected the very individual whom the Apostles looked to for guidance?
“The proposal is simple, but its implications are profound…James was not merely a significant leader in the early church and not just the leader of the Jerusalem church, but that he was the leader of the church.” (Varner, p. 8)
Over the next several days our attention will focus upon what some have rightly labeled the New Perspective on James (NPJ). The content in the next three posts will draw from Dr. William Varner’s discussion in the recent volume for the Evangelical Exegetical
Commentary, and will center around the (1) internal and (2) external evidence for the NPJ position.
1. Varner, William. James. Edited by H. Wayne House, W. Hall Harris III, and Andrew W. Pitts. Evangelical Exegetical Commentary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012.