Epistle of James
Verse by Verse Study through New Testament Epistle of James

About James

This letter, written by James the brother of Jesus was to Jewish Christians who were scattered abroad. The letter was meant to provide practical instructions for living and understanding the Christian life. The central theme of this letter is more practical than theological, because it presents to us the theme that Christian living is really a reflection of a changed life because of our faith in Jesus. James explains to us that if a person claims to be a Christian, but shows no difference in their behavior, or in their actions and attitudes toward others, then what benefit is that to anyone, much less to the world in need of hearing the Gospel message. In other words, if a person outwardly shows no true change of heart, no change in attitude or behavior, then how do you know that you are truly saved? Why is this important? James tells us that this is important because a person cannot be truly saved, and still desire to do the things contrary to Jesus and what He alone has done for us. When we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, our spirit which was dead in trespasses and sins is replaced by a spirit that is alive to God, and to the things of God. In addition, we receive the indwelling of the Holy Spirit who changes our hearts from the inside out and gives to us a desire for God, for His word and for others. Therefore, because of these changes in us, we cannot help but to show changes in our outward behavior and attitude toward others, God and the world around us.

"My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God." (James 1:2-4, 19-20)

Introduction (Part I of IV): Who Wrote the Epistle of James? - (James 1:1 - 5:20)

The first question we need to ask ourselves is which James wrote this letter. Before we get started explaining the answer we should point out that we know who wrote the letter based on church history, the testimony of early church fathers and the evidence before us. However, it's good for us to review how we arrived at our answer. This will give us a better understanding for ourselves, which not only can help us with future discussions, but also helps our understanding of the Bible as a whole.

From the New Testament list of possibilities there were at least four men who could have been the author of this letter. There was James the son of Zebedee, he was one of the twelve apostles along with his brother John. Together they were called the "Sons of Thunder." This was because of their zealous attitudes for the Lord and the Gospel. These are the two men we read about in chapter twenty of Matthew's Gospel. Their mother asked Jesus if her two sons (James and John) could sit in the positions of power and authority on His left and right hand when Jesus came into His kingdom. What she was asking is if her sons could be number two and three in power when Jesus became King. Of course this angered the other apostles. However, this James could not have been the author of the epistle. We know this for certain because he died before the letter was written. James suffered a martyr's death under Herod Agrippa I. In order to appease the Jews in Jerusalem, Herod killed James with the sword before the letter was ever written. Herod also tried to arrest Peter as well. However, as we read in Acts chapter twelve the Lord sent an angel to free Peter from prison. Next we have James the son Alphaeus, who many think is the same person as "James the Less" or "James the Younger." He was a brother of the apostle Matthew and the son of Mary and Alphaeus (Mary may also have been called Cleophas or Cleopas).

James was born in Capernaum located on the northwest shores of the Sea of Galilee in Israel. Some think he was from the tribe of Levi and may have lived as a Levite before coming to faith in Christ. There isn't a whole lot known about him, he disappears from church history after the Day of Pentecost. It has also been claimed that James (son of Alphaeus) was stoned in Jerusalem for preaching Christ and buried by the Sanctuary. In addition, there is some contention that he might have been the first bishop of the Syrian church. The third person is James, the father of Judas (not Iscariot). Judas was one of the twelve apostles and James was his father. History does not record James, the father as being active in the Jerusalem church or elsewhere in the early church, so we know he wasn't involved in the writing. Finally, this leaves us with the last James in our list of possible authors. This is James the half-brother of Jesus and the son of Joseph and Mary. James during his early life did not believe in Jesus as the Messiah. He did not believe Jesus was the incarnate God of Heaven. It wasn't until after the death of Jesus when the risen Lord had appeared to James that James became a believer in the Lord. James was a leader in the early church and the leader of the Christian church at Jerusalem. In addition, the style and grammar of the Greek used in the letter points to James the half-brother of Jesus as the author. Moreover, history and the testimony of the early church fathers testify to James the half-brother of Jesus, as the author of the epistle which bears his name.

Scripture taken from the Modern King James Version of the Holy Bible Copyright © 1962 - 1998 By AJay P. Green, Sr.
MacArthur, John. The MacArthur Study Bible: New King James Version. Nashville: Word Bibles, 1997. Print.
ESV Study Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2011. Print.
Publishers, Hendrickson. "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge." Barnes & Noble. N.p., 30 Nov. 6719. Web. 14 Dec. 2016.
Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Ezr 1:1–11). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.