In Howard Marshall excellent book New Testament Theology: Many witnesses, one gospel, he writes
Of all the books of the New Testament the letter of James is the one that may appear at first sight to be the least theological. But at least it mentions Jesus, which is more than can be said of 3 John! (p269)
Recently when preparing an introduction to the book of James I came across this quote which pricked my interest. His statement surprised me until I discovered how Martin Luther wanted to remove the book of James from the canon of scripture calling it ‘the epistle of straw’, and citing the fact that Jesus is only mentioned sporadically throughout the entire book. However, delving a little deeper into the text we begin to see that the author’s thinking is so engrained with the teaching of Jesus that he ‘neglects’ to mention his references. Nevertheless, if we cross reference James with Jesus’ ‘Sermon on the Mount’ found in Matthew 5-7 we begin to see remarkable parallels, the most compelling being the theme of Justice. In noting this we must first recognize that the book of James fits neatly into the literary category ‘Wisdom’, (like, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Eccesiasticus and the Wisdom of Solomon) which was extremely familiar to first and second century Jews. Therefore, it is from within this perspective that we should understand the author of James as advocating a ‘hard hitting and reality-orientated attitude’ (Peter Davids, 1989), offering us a realistic benchmark for how to live out a life filled with justice and integrity.