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Introduction to JAMES 

The Spirit of the Berean

"Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true." Acts 17:11

To be a Berean one has to be open to scrutinizing even the writers of the Bible. the Bereans were commended for doing so with regards to the Apostle Paul, seeing if based upon scripture Paul was speaking the truth. Thus I do so with regards to James, who isn't even an apostle, and was not chosen by Jesus Christ to standardize doctrine.

And just as the Bereans didn't presume that Paul's words were scripture, I, as a Berean, don't presume the words of James to be scripture either. Nor, like the Bereans, do I presume popularity to be the measure of scriptural validity.

As for the "how dare you scrutinize James" philosophy, Paul writes of James among others in leadership at the church at Jerusalem "But from those who seemed to be something——whatever they were, it makes no difference to me; God shows personal favoritism to no man" Gal 2:6 Furthermore James himself says, "let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment." James 3:1, and so James being a teacher should be subject to greater scrutiny. (Or is James saying we should impose this rule on others, but not on him?)

Luther's Astute Observation

I would start this introduction just as Martin Luther starting his introduction to this epistle saying, "this epistle of St. James was rejected by the ancients" Martin Luther and  "I do not regard it as the writing of an apostle, and my reasons follow. In the first place it is flatly against St. Paul and all the rest of Scripture in ascribing justification to works 2:24). It says that Abraham was justified by his works when he offered his son Isaac (2:20); Though in Romans 4:22-22 St. Paul teaches to the contrary that Abraham was justified apart from works, by his faith alone, before he had offered his son, and proves it by Moses in Genesis 15:6. Although it would be possible to "save" the epistle by a gloss giving a correct explanation of justification here ascribed to works, it is impossible to deny that it does refer to Moses' words in Genesis 15 (which speaks not of Abraham's works but of his faith, just as Paul makes plain in Romans 4) to Abraham's works. This fault proves that this epistle is not the work of any apostle." Martin Luther

This particularly becomes an issue in the second part of chapter 2 where James' ACTUAL statements are in contradiction to Paul's writings, particularly Romans 4. In both cases they apply Gen 15:6 to their argument which says, "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness." In Romans 4 Paul uses this verse as proof that justification is by faith alone apart from works, interpreting the Gen 15:6 as being fulfilled right then in Gen 15:6 prior to Abraham doing any works. Whereas James views Gen 15:6 as a prediction, a prophecy not being fulfilled until Gen 22, when Abraham did a work of faith. For to James, justification is not attained until one has both faith and works.

Note how James phrases James 2:23 And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness."

Every time in the Bible when this kind of phrase is used it's ALWAYS referring to the scripture as being a prophecy, a prediction of a future event.

Thus James views Abraham as either not believing God in Gen 15, or believing God, but not being reckoned righteous until Gen 22, prior to which Abraham had faith but no works, of which James refers to as dead faith and not able to save. Thus James views Abraham as not saved until Gen 22 when he offered Isaac as a work.

If James interpretation is correct concerning Gen 15:6, then Paul can't use it to prove his point in Romans 4. Conversely if Paul's interpretation of Gen 15:6 is correct and thus Abraham was justified by faith alone apart from works, then James is wrong. And thus Luther said and I agree concerning James, "it is flatly against St. Paul and all the rest of Scripture in ascribing justification to works"

In fact why would James bring up Gen 15:6 to begin with? It doesn't lend support to his argument. Unlike Paul he's not using it as "proof" validating his point, rather he's simply imposing an interpretation of Gen 15:6 which is explicitly and intentionally contrary to Paul's gospel.

Furthermore consider the phrasing James chose in direct contradiction to Paul:

Paul in Romans 4:2-6
 "if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness." Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works"

James 2:20,21
"But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar?"
James 2:24
"You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only."

And regarding the law, while Paul says in Gal 3:10  "All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: 'Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.'" and being under the law he refers to as bondage. yet James again contradicts Paul by saying, "speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty." James 2:12. And yes he is talking about the law of Moses as he quotes Deut and Exodus referencing the Law of Moses.

It appears on all these points that James is writing to intentionally oppose Paul.

Gloss Readings of James

Typically Catholics interpret Paul in light of James. James is the underpinning of the soteriology of Catholic and anti-OSAS non-Catholic Christians who view salvation as contingent not upon faith apart from works, but upon FAITH + WORKS.

In fact James was included in the Bible because of Catholicism, though rejected as scripture by the earlier Christians. It was included as the foundation of their soteriology. Go and argue Paul's points concerning the gospel and the Catholic will typically defend Catholicism with the book of James. It's the leaven of the Bible.

Though Martin Luther is credited as the forefather the Reformation, yet his views concerning James have largely been ignored. Yet he makes valid points. Consequently non-Catholic Christians misread James in such a way to make him agree with Paul.

To elaborate see my page on A View of Church History to view the particulars of gloss readings of James.

Other Evidence from the Epistle of James

Is the Curse of the Law Freedom?

James 2:10-13 "For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. For He who said, "Do not commit adultery," also said, "Do not murder." Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty.  For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment."

James advocates the idea that we will be judged by the law, and that such law brings freedom (that is, if you follow it perfectly) In contrast Paul views the law as a curse. "For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them." But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for "the just shall live by faith." Yet the law is not of faith, but "the man who does them shall live by them." Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law." Gal 3:10-13

According to James justification is by works, and yes, the works of the law, and that in opposition to Paul.

James' Hypocrisy and Prejudice

James 2:1 "My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality."

He goes on to speak of not treating the rich with partiality over the poor.  But if you were to replace "rich" with "Jew" and "poor" with Gentile, James is guilty of that very thing.

But let's consider even in his epistle, does James treat the rich impartially? No.

"Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries that are coming upon you! Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have heaped up treasure in the last days. Indeed the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. You have lived on the earth in pleasure and luxury; you have fattened your hearts as in a day of slaughter. You have condemned, you have murdered the just; he does not resist you." James 5:1-6

He categorically condemns the rich. While he commands "Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned." James 5:9, yet he grumbles against the rich. In James 4:12 he asks rhetorically "Who are you to judge another?" Well who are you James to judge another? Who do you think you are? He says, "Do not speak evil of one another" James 4:11 Yet he speaks evil of the rich.

James is partial to the poor, and how conveniently being one of them. And this is how James responds to the generosity shown him by rich Gentile Christians whom he would never have welcomed into his church without them first getting circumcised (see Gal 2:3) who had sent donations to the poor saints in Jerusalem.

Where do you suppose Cornelius - a Gentile convert who was generous to the Jews - went to church? Certainly not in James' church. He would have never been welcomed there despite being converted by Peter himself.

James shows himself partial, ungrateful, proud and demeaning towards Gentile Christians, of whom he imposes his own personal cherry picked regulations upon while washing his hands of them with regards to ministry. (See Gal 2 an Acts 15)

The Most Important Thing

What is the most important thing to James? "But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath. But let your "Yes," be "Yes," and your "No," "No," lest you fall into judgment." James 5:12 The most important thing to James is to not swear an oath. Compare that with Paul.  Col 3:14  But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.

James obsesses about the external - words, works. But Paul emphasizes attitude. James obsesses over condemnation and judgement. "Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned." James 5:9 While Paul emphasizes attitude, grace, hope, love, one's security in Christ.

The Spirit and the Body

James' backwards theology is further illustrated in his saying, "For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also." James 2:26 Here James associates the body with one's faith, and the spirit with one's works. That's backwards. A person's faith is internal. One's works, like one's body is an expression of that which is internal. And faith should be associated with one's spirit in this analogy, and works with one's body. And seeing as the spiritual man is alive even though his body may be dead, yes you can say that a man is justified by faith apart from works, just as Paul declared Abraham justified (alive to God) in Gen 15:6, whereas James considered him dead until Gen 22. Paul says, "if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness." Rom 8:10 The body is dead in that one's works (the body) are not taken into account with regards to one's justification, unlike the gospel of James. So while James could have said "For as the body without the spirit is dead, so works without faith is dead" or "For as the spirit can be alive apart from the body (2Cor 5:6), so also one's faith may be a living faith without works", but he couldn't say what he did say.


The History of James

The Corruption in the Jerusalem Church

There a legalistic cult had arisen whose spread to the Gentile churches caught the attention of the apostle Paul who subsequently, along with Barnabus and Titus, went to the church at Jerusalem to deal with it. That is "Some men came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the brothers: 'Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.' This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question." Acts 15:1,2

That church was led by the other apostles and James, the Lord's brother - not the apostle James. The apostle James had already been martyred.

Luke records at that meeting, "some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, 'The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the law of Moses.'" These "believers" were among the leadership of that church for Paul says, "I went in response to a revelation and set before them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. But I did this privately to those who seemed to be leaders" Gal 2:2

I put "believers" in quotes for Paul says of them, "Yet not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek. This matter arose because some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves. We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might remain with you." Gal 2:3-5 Thus these were "believers" in name only, yet among the leadership at the church there.

Indeed false believers among church leadership dominated the history of post-Biblical Christianity.

While these people failed to influence Paul, as he says, "As for those who seemed to be important— whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not judge by external appearance— those men added nothing to my message." Gal 2:6 Yet I would argue they did ultimately have an influence on the message.

Peter argued in favor of Paul saying, "Why do you (Jews) try to test God by putting on the necks of the (Gentile) disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear?  No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we (Jewish Christians) are saved, just as they Gentile Christians) are." Acts 15:10,11

Then James, who is not an apostle of Jesus Christ, spoke up as if he were the ultimate authority both over Jews and Gentile Christians and imposed regulations on them, merely toning down the regulations the circumcision would impose, rather then eliminating legalistic regulations altogether. For while saying, "It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God." (Acts 15:19) in response to Peter's work characterizing the whole of the Law as a yoke that could not be born, he took Peter to mean that one could simply tone down the Law to regulations which he thought would not be difficult, those regulations being, "we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood." Acts 15:20
Consider James' command forbidding Christians to eat the meat of strangled animals as a condition for salvation.  Paul says, "The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth." 1Tim 4:1-3 Paul is classifying James' decree as a doctrine of demons. He's speaking of James being a hypocritical liar whose conscience is seared.
It appears that James did not understand the gospel. He didn't understand Peter's point about believing in God's grace. He didn't  seem to understand Paul's point that salvation is by faith apart from the works of the law. Who does James think he was to add his own cherry picked regulations to the gospel? He wasn't even an apostle. Or was it that James was aligned with this heresy himself? Yes he made concessions in light of the present opposition he faced. But he made the kingdom of God out to be a matter of eating and drinking, in accordance with Jewish customs.

How is it that this heresy of the circumcision was not only present in that church, but even found among its leadership, despite the fact that apostles of the caliber of Peter and John were there? How could that have happened? I would speculate, Fear! Namely fear of James and his cronies.

It's interesting to note as Paul does in Gal 2:11,12 "When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group."

Note first that Paul seems to associate these certain men "from James" with the circumcision group - which is that heretical sect. Why mention "from James"? I take it that Paul wanted people to associate James with that sect of which Peter was afraid. Some further evidence of which may be inferred from the letter of James which I'll mention later. Though I don't understand what Peter was afraid of, but I take it that it was fear of the circumcision sect and fear of their leader James which allowed this heresy to propagate.

In confronting Peter on the matter Paul argues, "know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified." Gal 2:16 No mention of the regulations which James imposed upon the gospel.

However if this perspective is the case, then Paul is being the hypocrite himself here.  For why did he not object to James' imposition of regulations upon the gospel? Indeed was Paul afraid of James? Granted that Paul ignored James regulations in his own preaching. And in fact preached against them. For example he said, "the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking" Rom 14:17 and "Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience" 1Cor 10:25 To the Colossians he writes, "Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: "Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!"? These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings." Col 2:20-22 Why didn't Paul use this same statement in responding to James' proposition to impose such regulations on the Gentiles?

While some of the regulations James imposed had to do with conditions of fellowship between Jewish and Gentile Christians, it's difficult to read that passage in Acts in that way. It seems to me that at the time Paul gave in to James' legalism. Much as Paul said, "those men added nothing to my message." he failed to confront James personally as he did Peter with regards to this very issue. Why rebuke Peter publicly to his face concerning something Peter was simply implying by his actions while not even giving a rebuttal to James who was explicitly adding regulations to the gospel as requirements for salvation? Why get upset with Peter and not with James?

Perhaps Paul was afraid of James at the time, and regretting that fact became really angry with himself for doing so as might be reflected in his tone in Galatians and towards Peter.

The Letter of the Jerusalem Church

It is disconcerting that this marginalizing of the gospel imposed by James was propagated among the Gentile churches through a letter saying:
"Since we have heard that some who went out from us have troubled you with words, unsettling your souls, saying,  "You must be circumcised and keep the law" ——to whom we gave no such commandment—— it seemed good to us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who will also report the same things by word of mouth.  For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell." Acts 15:24-29

Notice in the rhetoric James is using, "We" is not referring to Paul or Barnabas. Both from verse 23 and verse 24 which speaks of "some who went out from us". Who is "us"? It's the Jerusalem church. I would imagine much as Paul reluctantly tolerated traveling with this letter with its messengers to the Gentile churches to establish the fact that the circumcision sect was unauthorized, it appears from his writings that he did not personally endorse the contents of this letter. He didn't even mention the letter in this epistle to the Galatians. I would imagine it particularly disturbed him personally this phrase James included where I believe James falsely invoked the endorsement of the Holy Spirit to give the letter some weight.

Whatever Paul's reasons, I believe neither this letter nor Paul's compromising of his gospel by endorsing it by implication was of the Holy Spirit. Church history would likely have been better off if he got in James' face right there at the meeting, just as he had done with Peter later on, even if it meant a church split - even splitting with the other apostles.

I think if Paul had stood up to James, then Peter and John would have seen his boldness and be convicted of the Holy Spirit and side with Paul, and consequently Catholicism, which is simply a derivation of the circumcision sect, would not have had a legalistic leg to stand on.

Though Paul never admitted this publicly, it may reflect his rhetoric and vehemence against the circumcision sect, like in Galatians 1 "I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.  But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!" Gal 1:6-8

Perhaps Paul should have told James that if he insisted on adding his "necessary" regulations to the gospel then he can go to hell.

Maybe Paul was calculating as if a politician that his ministry was someone contingent upon the endorsement of the Jerusalem church. Yet in Galatians 2 he denies this. Is he speaking hypocritically? Doesn't he even realize what he was doing? I would imagine that Peter didn't realize what he was doing when he stopped eating with the Gentile Christians of which Paul called him to account in Galatians 2. So Paul himself proves that an apostle of Jesus Christ can make mistakes, in the case of Peter. But did Paul himself make a mistake in caving into James to this extent?

Concerning the doctrine of the circumcision Paul says, "A little leaven leavens the whole lump." Gal 5:9 of which Jesus says, "Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy." Luke 12:1 Yet it seems Paul's own hypocrisy along with that of the other apostles in allowing the gospel to be marginalized by James resulted in the whole church being corrupted for thousands of years.

The Prejudice of the Jerusalem Church

The apostles in Jerusalem, even while having the Holy Spirit, were characteristically prejudice against Gentiles.

Consider Acts 6
Acts 6:1 Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, a complaint arose from the Grecian Jews against the Hebrews because their widows were neglected in the daily service. 
Why were these widows neglected? Because they had been married to Gentiles. This demonstrates prejudice among the congregation. The apostles response also showed prejudice as they said, "It is not appropriate for us to forsake the word of God and serve tables. "  Yet Jesus had taught them
When He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, "Do you know what I have done to you? "You call me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.  Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.John 13:12-17
They didn't follow Jesus' example. Their excuse was that they couldn't do both the ministry of the word and "wait on tables", the phase being clearly derogatory, indicating their contempt for such lowly labor. Yet they chose Stephen to do this, a man who both ministered in the word (as is demonstrated in Acts 7) and who "waited on tables". I believe they were blinded by their own prejudice against Gentiles resulting in their hypocrisy.

Jesus had to give Peter a special vision just to get him to share the gospel with Cornelius, a Gentile. Yet clearly, after being saved, it hadn't occurred to Peter to invite him to the Jerusalem church! Why? Obviously prejudice in light of the criticism Peter received for visiting a Gentile.

Along with the other apostles there, James also plays the hypocrite in this regard. For he writes, "My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality. For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, "You sit here in a good place," and say to the poor man, "You stand there," or, "Sit here at my footstool," have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?" James 2:1-4 Yet James appears to hold the faith with partiality, making a distinction between Jews and Gentiles and imposing Jewish regulations upon Gentiles. Nor was he inviting Gentiles into his church. I would ask James, what if you replace the rich man with the word "Jew" and the poor with "Gentile", how do you measure up? Do you not make yourself out to be a judge with evil thoughts? Indeed he did play the judge over the Gentiles, imposing upon them his cherry picked regulations.

And as for judging James, didn't James himself write, "Let not many of you be teachers, my brothers, knowing that we will receive heavier judgment." James 3:1 And isn't James a teacher? And wasn't it written that the Bereans were honorable in scrutinizing Paul? (Acts 17:11)

The hostility in the Jerusalem church was an example of the church being conformed to the world around them. For the culture was hostile to Gentiles. When Paul came to Jerusalem it is written "And they listened to him until this word, and then they raised their voices and said, "Away with such a fellow from the earth, for he is not fit to live!" What was the word? The word was "Gentiles" (Acts 22:21,22) Yet all during this time Peter and John were in the church there. Why were they not persecuted as Paul? Because they consciously or otherwise endorsed this kind of prejudice against Gentiles. Their fear of James and his cronies was likely fear of persecution for endorsing a gospel that declared that Gentiles don't have to become Jews to become Christians.

The Usurpers of the Jerusalem Church

Another thing to take into consideration concerning that meeting in Jerusalem as Paul noted in Galatians 2 is this:

"James, Peter and John, those reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the Jews." Gal 2:9
First of who were they to make such a decision? Jesus Christ told the apostles, "you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." Acts 1:8 and "go and make disciples of all nations". The word "nations" is "ethos" translated "Gentiles" over half the time (93 times) in the AV. And "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation." Mr 16:15

So first of all the decommissioning of Peter and John as apostles to the Gentiles, to limit their ministry to the Jews, was unauthorized. They did not have the right to make such a decision and override Jesus' command. Nor did they have the right to decommission Paul as an apostle to the Jews to restrict his ministry exclusively to the Gentiles. Jesus' commission to Paul was, "This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel." Acts 9:15 And again much as Paul did not object to this presumptuous decommissioning, he did ignore it. Note for example Acts 18:5 "Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ."
(In your face James!)

The apostles in Jerusalem had played with usurpation before when they replaced Judas. In Acts 1, though Jesus told them to wait for the Holy Spirit, they didn't to wait to make an administrative decision, of which there shouldn't have been any urgency nor was it their decision to make. An apostle was one whom Jesus Christ chose personally. Instead the apostles chose men for themselves and then allowed the Lord one out of two choices. I think the Lord was rather insulted by this. Much as they were presumptuous about Judas's replacement, the Lord chose Paul instead, a man whom the apostles would never have chosen. (Using Paul as he did was kind of Jesus' way of saying to them, "in your face!")

Who is James?

There are those who would claim that James was one of the Twelve apostles. Doubtful. There were two apostles named James. One was James the brother of John who was killed in Acts 12. That's not this James. Then there was James the apostle, the son of Alphaeus, referred to as James the Less, likely to distinguish him from the other apostle James. Obviously not James the brother of Jesus son of Joseph. Furthermore the mother of James the Less, though called "Mary" was not Mary mother of Jesus. (Mr 15:40) Jesus had neither father nor mother in common with James the Less. Thus the apostle James (that is, James the Less) was not the brother of Jesus. Furthermore if James the Less was the brother of Jesus, why was he not referred to as James the brother of Jesus? Those who equate the two have no explanation as to the alleged change in title.

Consider Acts 1:13,14  When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.

Notice that James son of Alphaeus, otherwise known as James the Less, whom some propose is James the brother if Jesus, is shown by these verses to be distinct from the brothers of Jesus.

Consider also John 7:5
"Even his own brothers did not believe in him." That should pretty much put to bed the issue. In John 7, his "brothers" didn't believe in him. Yet James the Less did. Thus James the Less was not a "brother" of Jesus.

As for some who allege "brother" means "cousin", makes no difference in the above arguments. But in fact James, the brother of Jesus, was Jesus' biological half-brother. Notice: Mark 6:3 "Is this not the carpenter, the Son of Mary, and brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And are not His sisters here with us?" And they were offended at Him. Both in the Old and New Testament whenever "brother" is used in the context of talking about earthly brothers (as opposed to "brothers in the faith"), and referenced to a mother, it always refers to biological brothers and not simply a kinsman. Furthermore in New Testament Greek there is a distinct word for "relative" or "cousin" used many time, but different than that for "brother" used in the above cases. If they meant to say "relative" or "cousin" why is it not translated that way? Because translators know that such a translation would be invalid.

But there are those who claim that Galatians 1:19 proves James is an apostle which says, "But I saw none of the other apostles except <1508>James, the Lord’s brother." However the Greek word <1508>  and phrasing is also used in Mt 24:36  "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, except <1508> My Father only." To claim that Gal 1:19 proves James is an apostle is to say that Mt 24:36 proves that the Father is an angel, which is foolish. Essentially what Gal 1:19 means is "I saw none of the other apostle, but I did see James the Lord's brother", which does not affirm James as an apostle.

Now since James, the brother of Jesus, was not an apostle, who does James thinks he is? I asked this in a Bible study group and one responded, "He was the Lord's brother". That's the thing! Nepotism! In the world it is presumed that simply being a family member makes one subject to special favoritism. But that is not the case in the kingdom of God.

At one point Jesus' family, including his mother reckoned him crazy and on that basis tried to take him away from his ministry.

"Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, 'He is out of his mind.'" Mark 3:20,21 Then if we continue on to verse 31 when they actually arrived it says: Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, "Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you." "Who are my mother and my brothers?" he asked.  Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, "Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother." Mark 3:31-35
Jesus showed no favoritism to his family. Even with regards to Mary he often criticized
and treated like everyone else. "One of the women in the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, "Blessed is the womb that bore You and the breasts at which You nursed." But He said, "On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it." Luke 11:27,28

Catholic Nepotism

The concept of Nepotism is the reason why Mary is viewed as being the "Queen of Heaven" in Catholicism. I think it's the reason why James was treated as if the head of the Church, who could arbitrarily impose regulations upon it. Interesting fact Eusebius, the Christian historian writing in the early 4th century, notes that the Roman Emperor Domitian presumed the Church to be a monarchy, and wanting to rid the empire of it located the descendants of the Lord's family, namely descendants of Jude, who along with James, were two of the half brothers of Jesus. Eusebius says, "Treating them with contempt, seeing them as simpletons, commanded them to be dismissed, and by a decree ordered the persecution to cease." But what is of particular note is what Eusebius writes next, "Thus delivered, they ruled the churches, both as witnesses and relatives of the Lord."

They ruled simply because they were relatives. That's nepotism. Catholicism started off as a monarchy ruled by Jesus' relatives. It is not what Jesus endorsed. Just as James arbitrarily added man made regulations to the Church, so also the Catholic Church. They corrupted the gospel consequently leading to "church" filled with false brethren, both in leadership an among the assembly.

James started it. Paul failed to sufficiently stand against it. The result being thousands of years of the gospel largely being lost and marginalized. The "rulers" not being allowed to be scrutinized on any basis but one's pedigree.

Nepotism led to Cronyism. And again Bereans were disallowed from scrutinizing leadership, simply due to "office" and church politics. Church leaders became insulated from scrutiny until the Reformation. Yet Catholicism and Orthodox Christianity stand and continue today as illustrations of the errors of James and the sect of the circumcision.

The epistle of James was included in the Bible by Catholics for support of their false gospel.

The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources