Introduction to the Books of the Bible
The Letter from James
BOOK : James
Description : A letter by the leader of the Jerusalem church to Christians scattered by persecution.
Author: James, possibly the brother of Jesus
Date written : Probably late 50's, early 60's AD. Possibly one of the earliest letters
Chapters : 5
Some Key Verses:
The opening indicator – to scattered Christians
1:1 To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations:
Opening directions to a scattered persecuted people
1:2,3 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance
A call to obey God's word
1:22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says
The relationship of faith to deed
2:14 What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds?
A good life should be obvious
3:13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom
We include more verses and references in the Conclusion below
The letter of James has strong Jewish overtones but is clearly for believers and specifically for those scattered. The opening, “ To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations,” has been taken by some to mean scattered Jews but if they were they were clearly Christian believers. It is more like the simply mean, to all Christians scattered because of the persecutions.
It is strong on faith and strong on action and clearly wants Christians to stand out because of their goodness.
It's teaching is specific and direct and there are a number of similarities with the Sermon on the Mount. Compare
Jas 2:5 with Mt 5:3
Jas 3:10-12 with Mt 7:15-20;
Jas 3:18 with Mt 5:9;
Jas 5:2-3 with Mt 6:19-20;
Jas 5:12 with Mt 5:33-37
There is an intriguing mix of teaching with deep insight, and very basic straight forward teaching.
Insight passages might include:
Simple instructions include:
James also has a strong ‘holiness' aspect and an aversion for godless thinking – ‘the world' - very similar to John's thinking in his first letter (see 1Jn 2:15,16) e.g.
1:21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.
1:27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world
4:4 don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.
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