AUTHOR, PLACE AND DATE OF WRITING
There are several Christian leaders named James in the New Testament, and thus the author of this epistle could have been one of several different men. James the son of Zebedee and the brother of John is an unlikely candidate, however, since he died about A.D. 44 (Ac 12:2), almost certainly too early for this epistle. Most interpreters regard Jesus' half brother James to have been the author of this letter. Against this, some have argued that, being an Aramaic-speaking son of a Galilean carpenter, the Lord's brother could not have mastered Greek. However, in light of the wide acceptance of James's leadership in Jerusalem, it seems reasonable to assume that he was able to speak articulately to the large and diverse Jewish Christian community of the first century A.D.
Some scholars date James in the early 60s, but others think it was written earlier, perhaps before A.D. 50. The letter's distinctive Jewish nature, the simple church order described, the use of the Greek term for synagogue and the lack of reference to the issue of Gentile circumcision all seem to point to an early date. It is probable that the letter was written from Jerusalem.
The letter lacks any personal references or greetings to individuals and is addressed to the "twelve tribes" of the Diaspora (1:1). While this could be read metaphorically as referring to the (Gentile) Christian church, most surmise that James intended his epistle as a general, circular letter for Jewish believers throughout the Roman world.
CULTURAL FACTS AND HIGHLIGHTS
James's purpose was to encourage his readers, who were not only scattered (see Ac 11:19) but also largely poor and oppressed (Jas 2:6; 5:1-6). The letter has a strongly moral tone; it is filled with exhortations to the readers to live in a pious and upright manner.
AS YOU READ
Note the diverse groups James addressed and his instructions to each. Look for his emphasis on vital Christianity that is characterized by good deeds and a faith works. Compare James's commands with Jesus' teaching found in the Sermon on the Mount (e.g.,cf Jas 2:5 with Mt 5:3; Jas 3:10-12 with Mt 7:15-20; Jas 3:18 with Mt 5:9; and Jas 5:2-3 with Mt 6:19-20; 5:12 with Mt 5:33-37) Take to heart James's no-nonsense teaching about tongue.
DID YOU KNOW?
• The Greek word for "crown- was the usual term for the wreath placed on the head of a victorious athlete or military leader
• "There is one God" is a declaration of monotheism that reflects the well-known Jewish creed called the Shema (2:19). • As a
common greeting or blessing, shalom expressed a wish for prosperity, physical health, salvation and harmonious
• In the ancient world, rural land holdings and their produce were the source of real wealth. A prosperous landowner in
James's culture was, by definition, an exploiter of the poor (5:1-6).
The book of James includes the following themes:
1. Genuine faith. James's statement that "a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone" is not a contradiction of Paul's teaching that salvation is based solely on faith (see Gal 3:6-14). A "faith" that knows for certain that God exists but fails to trust him or to manifest itself in a transformed life is not faith at all.
2. Good deeds. "Deeds" in James is another term for "fruit"—acts of Christian love that inevitably accompany a genuine faith.
3. Genuine wisdom. James contrasted two kinds of wisdom. False wisdom produces envy and selfish ambition (3:14), whereas genuine wisdom results in humility, deeds of mercy and right conduct (3:13). Wisdom helps Christians control their speech (3:1 –12) and promotes peace, consideration, submission, mercy, good deeds, impartiality and sincerity (3:17).
VIII. Warning Against Worldliness (4:1-5:6)
A. Selfishness (4:1-3)
B. Friendship With the World (4:4)
C. Pride (4:5-10)
D. Slander (4:11-12)
E. Boasting (4:13-17)
F. Selfishness (5:1-6)
IX. Miscellaneous Exhortations (5:7-20)
JAMES 2 In the Greco-Roman world clothing basically fit into two categories: the tunic and the mantle.The tunic was something like the modem T-shirt, but very long (of knee or ankle length), made of wool or linen, with or without sleeves.ln ancient terminology one "entered into-a tunic to put it on. A mantle was something like a large blanket wrapped around a person.
The tunic (or chiton) was the basic article of clothing for virtually all people,serving as a linen undergarment worn next to the skin.The only item of clothing the poorest people may have owned, it was often *ate dirty.
Clothes were draped over the body rather than fitted; indeed,this draping effect is part of the classical ideal of dignity and serenity. At night, one's clothing (especially the mantle) could also serve as a blanket. Leather sandals were the standard footwear for all ranks of society.
In ancient sculpture people often appear wearing only a mantle (if anything at all).This is because of the classical ideal of beauty and does not reflect ordinary dress. In fact, people almost always donned tunics under their mantles, and men ordinarily wore loincloths as underwear as well.A scene from Pompeii' depicts two female athletes wearing garments similar to a modern two-piece swim suit, suggesting that women of means had a fairly wide variety of underwear and outerwear available to them.
Upper-class Roman women often frequently sported exotic hair-styles, often with an outlandish display of curls. Dyeing the hair and wearing expensive cosmetics were popular with women (cf. 1Pe 3:3), who also wore decorative tiaras, pins and nets with their hair.The wearing of rings and other jewelry by both men and women contributed to the display of wealth. James warned his readers not to be so dazzled by the finery of the rich that they showed partiality to wealthy believers over their less fortunate Christian brothers and sisters.
JAMES 3 James's guidelines on speech ethics, while rooted in the Old Testament and the teachings of Jesus, were also in harmony with widespread social conventions in the ancient world. The comparison of the tongue to the rudder of a ship (Jas 3:4), for example, had been made generations earlier by the an-cient Egyptian sage Amenemope., The image of the tongue as a destructive fire (v. 6) has parallels in Hellenistic literature (e.g., in the writings of Seneca and Plutarch). The same may be said for the importance of being slow to speak (1:19) and for the need to match words with deeds (1:22); the Roman Cicero also affirmed this ideal.James's absolute prohibition against oaths (5:12; cf. Mt 5:33-37) was a Christian distinctive, but even here Greco-Roman writers agreed that a person's character ought to be so blameless that oaths were not strictly necessary (such ideas are expressed by the classical writers Epictetus and Diogenes Laertius).
It is important to realize that these standards of Christian behavior have parallels in the best ethical literature of the ancient world. This reminds us, first, that the Bible does not claim to be presenting new moral standards.The morality it proclaims is for the most part ancient and universal. Second, the parallels remind us that the Biblical texts affirmed what was good and true in the culture around the writers and their audiences. Biblical authors did not perceive themselves to be invariably opposed to the norms of their day.
JAMES 5 Pliny the Younger, in a famous letter sent to Emperor Trajan in around A.D. 110 (Epistle, 10.96), described his encounter with Christians and reported on their practices. Among other remarks,this historian mentioned that the followers of Christ gathered early in the morning to "chant a song to Christ as if to a god." It is not surprising that singing became a standard Christian practice;James 5:13 commands Christians to "sing songs of praise" as an expression of joy, and similar exhortations to and examples of singing praise are found elsewhere in the New Testament (Mt 26:30; Lk 1:46-55; Ac 16:25; [ph 5:19; Col 3:16; Rev 5:9-10),
Paul, in Ephesians 5:19, spoke of"psalms, hymns and spiritual songs" in the Christian church. It is uncertain how or even whether these three should be differentiated, although "psalms" certainly refers to the singing either of Biblical psalms or of songs modeled after them. Mary's Magnificat (Lk 1:46-55), although not an Old Testament psalm, is obviously psalm-like.
It is also difficult to ascertain the musical style of these early hymns. It is likely that the earliest Christian singing was heavily influenced by Jewish singing and liturgy; the medieval plainchant or "Gregorian chant" may preserve something of that style. It may be that the early Christians wanted a musical style that distinguished their hymns from the clapping, dancing and boisterous style of contemporary pagan music.The old music of the Armenian, Coptic and other ancient churches may preserve something of the flavor of early Christian singing. A few pieces of early Christian music have survived even in the modern, Western church. The words of the "Gloria Patri,"for example, go back to the first century A.D.
Some scholars suggest that fragments of early Christian hymns are included in certain New Testament epistles. Philippians 2:6 —11 is often regarded as such, and other possible examples include Ephesians 5:14,1 Timothy 3:16 and 2 Timothy 2:11-13. None of these texts is obviously poetic, however, and the suggestion that they are hymns remains speculative.