This paper is the first part of an extended program to develop a theory of fracture in the context of strain-limiting theories of elasticity. This program exploits a novel approach to modeling the mechanical response of elastic, that is non-dissipative, materials through implicit constitutive relations. The particular class of models studied here can also be viewed as arising from an explicit theory in which the displacement gradient is specified to be a nonlinear function of stress. This modeling construct generalizes the classical Cauchy and Green theories of elasticity which are included as special cases. It was conjectured that special forms of these implicit theories that limit strains to physically realistic maximum levels even for arbitrarily large stresses would be ideal for modeling fracture by offering a modeling paradigm that avoids the crack-tip strain singularities characteristic of classical fracture theories. The simplest fracture setting in which to explore this conjecture is anti-plane shear. It is demonstrated herein that for a specific choice of strain-limiting elasticity theory, crack-tip strains do indeed remain bounded. Moreover, the theory predicts a bounded stress field in the neighborhood of a crack-tip and a cusp-shaped opening displacement. The results confirm the conjecture that use of a strain limiting explicit theory in which the displacement gradient is given as a function of stress for modeling the bulk constitutive behavior obviates the necessity of introducing ad hoc modeling constructs such as crack-tip cohesive or process zones in order to correct the unphysical stress and strain singularities predicted by classical linear elastic fracture mechanics. © 2011 Springer Science+Business Media B.V.