Reading 0,15 - 5 Chapters - 108 verses - 2,309 words

Vital Statistics


The author identifies himself as James (1:1); he was probably the brother of Jesus and leader of the Jerusalem council (Ac 15). For men in the NT have this name. The author of this letter could not have been the apostle Jame, who died too early (A.D. 44) to have written it. The other two men named James, had neither the stature nor the influence that the writer of this letter had.

James was one of several brothers of Christ, probably the oldest since he heads the list in Mt 13:55. At first he did not believe in Jesus and even challenged him and misunderstood his mission (Jn 7:2-5). Later he became very prominent in the church:

1. He was on of the select individuals Christ appeared to after his resurrection (1Co 15:7).

2. Paul called him a "pillar" of the church (Gal 2:9).

3. Paul, on his first post-conversion visit to Jerusalem, saw James (Gal 1:19).

4. Paul did the same on his last visit (Ac 21:18).

5. When Peter was rescued from prison, he told his friends to tell James (Ac 12:17).

6. James was a leader in the important council of Jerusalem (Ac 15:13).

7. Jude could identify himself simply as "a brother of James" (Jude 1:1), so well know was James. He was martyred c. A.D. 62.


Some date letter the early 60s. There are indications, however, that it was written before A.D. 50:

1. Its distinctively Jewish nature suggests that it was composed when the church was still predominantly Jewish.

2. It reflects a simple church order - officers of the church are called "elders" (5:14) and "teachers" (3:1).

3. No reference is made to the controversy over Gentile circumcision.

4. The Greek term synagoge ("synagogue" or "meeting") is used to designate the meeting or meeting place of the church (2:2).

If this early dating is correct, this letter is the earliest of all the NT writings - with the possible exception of Galatians.


The recipients are identified explicitly only in 1:1: "the twelve tribes scattered among the nations." Some hold that this expression refers to Christians in general, but the term "twelve tribes" would more naturally apply to Jewish Christians. Furthermore, a Jewish audience would be more in keeping with the obviously Jewish nature of the letter (e.g., the use of the Hebrew title for God, kyrios sabaoth, "Lord Almighty," 5:4). That the recipients were Christians is clear from 2:1; 5:7-8. It has been plausibly suggested that these were believers from the early Jerusalem church who, after Stephen's death, were scattered as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Syrian Antioch (Ac 8:1; 11:19). This would account for James's references to trials and oppression, his intimate knowledge of the readers and the authoritative nature of the letter. As leader of the Jerusalem church, James wrote as pastor to instruct and encourage his disperse people in the face of their difficulties.

Distinctive Characteristic

Characteristics that make the letter distinctive are:

1. Its unmistakably Jewish nature.

2. Its emphasis on vital Christianity, characterized by good deeds and a faith that works (genuine faith must and will be

accompanied by a consistent lifestyle.

3. Its simple organization.

4. Its familiarity with Jesus' teaching preserved in the Sermon on the Mount (compare 2:5 with Mt 5:3; 3:10-12 with Mt 7:15-20;

3:18 with Mt 5:9; 5:2-3 with Mt 6:19-20; 5:12 with Mt 5:33-37)

5. Its similarity to OT wisdom writings such as Proverbs

6. Its excellent Greek.

How to read James

Tired of spin? Want someone to tell it to you straight? James is the one to do it! He cuts straight to the quick. He’s not trying to please anyone but the Lord in this plainspoken letter to believers everywhere. His message clearly exposes wrong motives and wrong actions. Packing this brief letter with 54 commands, he instructs us how to live a life of faith that is “Pure ... and undefiled” (Jam 1:27). Many of James’s statements echo the proverbs of the Old Testament and Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount (Mat 5-7). He urges us to respond with love, humility, and patience, no matter what the circumstances of our day-to-day life. This is true faith.

This letter takes a no-nonsense approach to combat hypocrisy and religiosity. James describes the evil of a tongue out of control, of playing favorites with the rich, or of prideful boasting about self-made plans. Don’t look for pious platitudes here. Expect a string of hard-hitting, specific, practical instructions to help you live an authentic Christian life.

James Interpretive Challenges

At least two significant texts challenge the interpreter:

    1. In 2:14-26, what is the relationship between faith and works? Does James’s emphasis on works contradict Paul’s focus on faith?.

    2. In 5:13-18, do the promises of healing refer to the spiritual or physical realm?


James Horizontal

God's character in James

  1. God is accessible - 4:8

  2. God is immutable - 1:17

  3. Go is Light - 1:17

  4. God is a promise keeper - 1:12; 2:5

  5. Gos is unified - 2:19-20

Christ in James

James openly refers to Christ only twice (1:1; 2:1), yet his epistle abounds with reference to Christ's teaching, particularly to the Sermon on the Mount. James's application of truth to his reader's lives gives believers a clearer understanding of Christ's wisdom.