Introduction to the Letter of James
Copyright ©2001, Charles Hess, Ridgefield,
FOUR MEN NAMED JAMES
- Son of Zebedee and Salome, brother of John
(Mt 4:21; 10:2; 20:20; 27:56; Mk 15:40).
a. Martyred AD 44 (Ac 12:2).
- Son of Alphaeus (Mt 10:3; Mk 3:18).
[Probably "the Less" (Mt 27:56; Mk 15:40);
possible brother of Thaddaeus (compare Mt 9:9;
10:3; Mk 2:14; 3:18).
- Brother of Jesus (Mt 13:55; Mk 6:3; Ga 1:19).
- Father of Judas [not Iscariot] (Lu 6:16).
JAMES THE LORD'S BROTHER
[REGARDED AS WRITER BOOK OF JAMES]
- Spent time with Christ in Cana (Joh 2:12).
- Gave advice to Christ (Joh 7:3, 10).
- Did not believe (Joh 7:5).
- Later believed (Ac 1:14).
- Prominent in early church (Ac 12:17; 15:13-21;
21:18; 1Co 9:5; Ga 1:19; 2:9, 12).
- Jesus appeared to him (1Co 15:7).
- Martyred AD 62 by high priest (Josephus,
The writer of this remarkably practical book[ 1 ] is "James, a bond-servant of
God and of the Lord Jesus Christ" (Jas 1:1). There are four men named James
mentioned in the NT (see chart FOUR MEN NAMED JAMES). The one who
wrote the book of James is generally thought to be the Lord's brother (see chart,
JAMES THE LORD'S BROTHER).[ 2 ]
TO WHOM WRITTEN
The letter was written "to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad"
(Jas 1:1). They were Christians (Jas 1:18, 25; 2:1, 12; 5:7-9; see chart TWELVE
TRIBES WERE CHRISTIANS at James 1:1).
Very early, churches of Christ in the East recognized the book of James
as inspired. It was listed among disputed books by Eusebius (AD 323) but he
admitted it was read in most churches. It was considered canonical[ 3 ] by Origen
(AD 250).[ 4 ]
If scholars are correct in assigning the book to James the Lord's brother,
it was written prior to his martyrdom in AD 62 (see chart JAMES THE LORD'S
BROTHER). Some have speculated it may have been written
as early as Herod's persecution in AD 44. The writer must have been familiar
with Palestine. Those who have had the privilege to visit there in the early
summer will appreciate the beauty of the "flowering grass" and recognize the
reality of the scorching sirocco wind (see notes on Jas 1:10, 11). All over that
limestone country there are springs or "fountains" that send forth fresh water (see
Jas 3:11). Fig trees and grapevines are common (Jas 3:12). Palestinian farmers
look for early and latter rains (Jas 5:7).
CHRIST AS PRESENTED BY JAMES
- The Lord whom he served and to whom he
belonged (Jas 1:1).
- Promises crown of life (Jas 1:12).
- Christians "hold" faith in Him (Jas 2:1).
- His is the "fair name" by which Christians
have been called (Jas 2:7).
- His future coming motivates righteous living
(Jas 5:7, 8).
NATURE OF LETTER
James wrote in a style that is a blend of the book of Proverbs and the
Sermon on the Mount. Much of it deals with true morality and practical
faithfulness. It is filled with short, pithy, proverb-like sayings. Here are some
examples: "He is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways" (Jas 1:8),
"Resist the devil and he will flee from you" (Jas 4:7) and "The effective, fervent
prayer of a righteous man avails much" (Jas 5:16).
PROBLEMS ADDRESSED BY JAMES
- Showing favoritism (Jas 2:1-9).
- Faith without works (Jas 2:14-26).
- Misuse of the tongue (Jas 3:1-12; 4:2, 11).
- Harsh judgment of others (Jas 3:14; 4:11).
- Friendship with the world (Jas 4:4).
- Trusting in riches (Jas 5:1-6).
- Swearing (Jas 5:12).
The book of James contains 108 verses with 54 commands. Some of the
commands begin with "Let" or "Let not." Here are some examples.
"Let no man say when he is tempted, `I am tempted by God'" (Jas 1:13).
"Let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a
stricter judgment" (Jas 3:1).
- Faith, belief (Jas 1:3, 6; 2:1, 5, 14, 17, 18, 19,
20, 22, 23, 24, 26; 5:15).
- Rejoicing, joy, cheerful (Jas 1:2, 9; 2:23; 4:9;
- Patience, be patient (Jas 1:3, 4; 5:7, 8, 11).
- Perfect (Jas 1:4, 17, 25; 2:22; 3:2).
There are at least four key words in the book of James (see chart KEY
WORDS). Religion is a prominent theme. Pure religion (true faith) is clothed in
good works (compare Jas 1:27). Carnal or vain religion is verified by activities
of hypocritical members who misuse the tongue.
- Temptation: leading to patience; leading to
sin (Jas 1:2-18; 5:7-11).
- Faith: living faith with works; dead without
works (Jas 1:22-27; 2:14-26).
- Wisdom: from above; earthly (Jas 3:13-18).
- Friendship: drawing near to God; friendship
with world (Jas 4:4-8).
- Trust: in Lord's will; in riches (Jas 4:13-16;
OUTLINE OF JAMES (A)
- Introduction (Jas 1:1).
- Trials (Jas 1:2-18).
- Be doers of the word (Jas 1:19-25).
- Pure religion (Jas 1:26, 27).
- Do not show partiality (Jas 2:1-13).
- Faith without works (Jas 2:14-26).
- Sins of the tongue (Jas 3:1-12).
OUTLINE OF JAMES (B)
- True wisdom (Jas 3:13-18).
- Evil divisions and how to overcome them (Jas
- Lord's will in future plans (Jas 4:13-17).
- Warning to godless rich (Jas 5:1-6).
- Patience in suffering (Jas 5:7-12).
- Effectiveness of prayer (Jas 5:13-18).
- Joy of restoring a lost soul (Jas 5:19, 20).
[ 1 ]The basic text in the Introduction is the New King James Version (NKJV). Scripture taken from the
New King James Version Copyright 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission.
All rights reserved. Alternate phrases generally noted may be from the ASV, Darby, English Study
Bible (ESB), KJV or RSV. Greek transliteration follows the BibleSoft method.
[ 2 ]Some have proposed that James the son of Zebedee wrote the book of James but he was martyred
in AD 44.
[ 3 ]"Canonical" has to do with a book's acceptance as a part of Holy Scripture.
[ 4 ]It is commonly reported that Martin Luther called the book of James "an epistle of straw" because
it contradicted his theory of salvation by faith alone.
Copyright ©2001, Charles Hess, Ridgefield, Washington,
This material may be copied for personal study only.
It may not be distributed or published in any form whatever
without the copyright
owner's written permission.
This copyright notice must be included on all copies
The basic text, and all quotations not designated otherwise,
are from the New King James Version, copyrighted ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.
All rights reserved. Used by permission.
Greek transliteration follows the BibleSoft method.
Published in The Old Paths Archive
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