At this point, my straight-through reading of the Bible was beginning a dash toward the end. Just seven short letters by authors other than Paul and then into Revelation and then I’d be done.

~*~

 

First is the letter to the brethren from James, who emphasizes the importance of faithful actions in all things.

As Robert Eisenman details, James was highly regarded as a religious figure, possibly even as a leader of the pietistic Essenes but certainly at the head of the church in Jerusalem. The only surviving contemporaneous historical reference to existence of Jesus come, in fact, when Josephus writes of him as the brother of James.

I’ve heard one friend say the prose of James flows naturally in Greek, and a Jewish colleague of my friend noted that apart from the passages about Jesus as Messiah, the text is solidly Jewish in its teaching, continuing largely in the Wisdom stream of the Hebrew Bible.

Some date of composition at 50 CE, making it the earliest book in the New Testament. Others place it as 65-85 CE, raising questions of its authorship.

~*~

 

The first letter attributed to Peter is addressed to Christians suffering persecution, while the second — possibly the newest New Testament text — looks to the Day of the Lord, or Second Coming, and quotes freely from the letter of Jude.

First Peter is given the dates of 67-68 CE by some, while others place it at 75-90 CE. Its high standard of Greek points to Peter’s secretary Silvanus as the author.

Second Peter is believed to have been written in 68 CE or at late as 110 CE.

~*~

 

The three letters of John warn against false teachers and emphasize the necessity for love among the believers.

Their composition is often dated at 85 CE, although others place them at 90-110 CE.

~*~

Jude, meanwhile, is attributed to another brother of Jesus.

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