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James: The Author and the Epistle

1) Authorship
a) James 1:1, “James, a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ”
b) Half-brother of our Savior: Matthew 13:55, “Is this not the carpenter’s son? Is not His
mother called Mary? And His brothers James, Joses, Simon, and Judas?”
c) Witness to the resurrection: 1 Corinthians 15:7, “After that He was seen by James, then
by all the apostles”
d) In the upper room: Acts 1:14, “These all continued with one accord in prayer and
supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers”
e) Leader in the Jerusalem church (Acts 15), “Then all the multitude kept silent and
listened to Barnabas and Paul declaring how many miracles and wonders God had
worked through them among the Gentiles. 13 And after they had become silent, James
answered, saying, “Men and brethren, listen to me: 14 Simon has declared how God at
the first visited the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name …” (12-14)
f) ISBE, “Clement of Alexandria says that Peter and James and John, who were the three
apostles most honored of the Lord, chose James, the Lord's brother, to be the bishop of
Jerusalem after the Lord's ascension”
g) Died in 62 AD, Josephus: met his death after the death of the procurator Porcius Festus,
yet before Lucceius Albinus took office
2) The Main Theme of James
a) James 1:22, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves”
b) James 2:17, “Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (also in 2:20, 26)
c) Hiebert, “The whole epistle is concerned with one simple truth: It is not enough to ‘be’ a
Christian, if this fact does not show in one’s conduct”
d) “James clearly taught that a faith that lacks works is empty, vain and useless”
(Shepherd’s notes, p. 1)
3) Purpose for Writing
a) Have “pure and undefiled religion” because some have fallen into a worldly lifestyle (1:27)
b) Put faith into practice because some have failed to (1:19-26)
c) Be single minded because some are wavering (“double-minded”) between God and the world
(1:8; 4:8)
d) “The root difficulty of the readers lies in a distorted conception of the nature of salvation by
faith and its relation to daily life as the proving ground for the development of Christian
character” (Hiebert p 37)
4) Date of the Epistle: One of the earliest epistles - Possibly written early to mid 40’s
a) terminus ad quem (latest date) would be prior to his death in 62 AD
b) If written after the apostolic council in Jerusalem (a.d. 48–49), would have mentioned
the momentous events of such council!
c) Hiebert: “The total absence of any reference to Gentiles and their relation to
Christianity points to a time before Gentile believers constituted a prominent element in
the church” (p 35)
5) Audience
a) James 1:1, “James, a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve
tribes which are scattered abroad” (Greek: “διαςπορά” / Transliteration: “diaspora”). Cf
also 1 Peter 1:1 (identical Greek), “To the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia,
Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia”)
b) Jewish Christians (see above comment about the early date!)
c) Compare also: James 2:2, “For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold
rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes” (Greek
ςυναγωγή = synagogue!)

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James: The Author and the Epistle

d) Possibly literally dispersed!

i) Acts 2:9-11 (those gathered on Pentecost!): “Parthians and Medes and Elamites,
those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia
and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome,
both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabs—we hear them speaking in our own
tongues the wonderful works of God.””
ii) Acts 8:1 & 4, “At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at
Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria,
except the apostles …. Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere
preaching the word “
6) Literary Features
a) Literary Form
i) Similar to Old Testament wisdom literature in Proverbs and Psalms
ii) Most Jewish book of the New Testament
iii) An epistle but:
(1) No personal references
(2) No epistolary conclusion
iv) High quality Greek
v) Parallels to the Sermon on the Mount (see chart that follows)
vi) Many references to nature: (e.g.)
(1) James 1:6, “wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind”
(2) James 1:11, “For no sooner has the sun risen with a burning heat than it withers the
(3) James 3:12, “Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs?”
(4) James 5:7, “See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth”
b) Key words

tempt: 1:12-14 slow: 1:19

patient: 5:7-8 wrath: 1:19-20
perfect: 1:4,17,25; 2:22; 3:2 word: 5 times (eg 1:18)
ask: 1:5-6; 4:2-3 hear / hearer / heard: 5 times (eg 1:19)
lack: 1:4-5 heart: 5 times (eg 5:8)
lust: 4:2 doer: 4 times (eg 4:11)
sin / sinners: 8 times (eg 1:15) behold: 5:9
c) Literary Devices w examples
i) Short questions and answers
(1) 3:13, “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct”
(2) 4:14, “For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then
vanishes away”
ii) Rhetorical questions
(1) 2:5, “Has God not chosen the poor of this world?”
(2) 3:12, “Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs?”
iii) Irony
(1) 2:14, “if someone says he has faith but does not have works?”

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James: The Author and the Epistle

7) James and the Gospels – chart of similarities between the epistle and the teachings of Jesus
(especially Sermon on the Mount) (Hiebert p. 18)

James Matthew
Reference Text Reference Text
Blessed are those who are persecuted for
righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom
of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when they
My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of
1:2 5:10-12
various trials evil against you falsely for My sake. 12 Rejoice
and be exceedingly glad, for great is your
reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the
prophets who were before you
But let patience have its perfect work, that you Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your
1:4 5:48
may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing Father in heaven is perfect
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.
1:5; 5:15 who gives to all liberally and without reproach, 7:7-12 For everyone who asks receives, and he who
and it will be given to him seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be
Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the
1:9 Let the lowly brother glory in his exaltation 5:3
kingdom of heaven
But I say to you that whoever is angry with his
brother without a cause shall be in danger of
the wrath of man does not produce the the judgment. And whoever says to his
1:20 5:22
righteousness of God brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the
council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be
in danger of hell fire.
For judgment is without mercy to the one who
5:7, Blessed are the merciful, For they shall
2:13 has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over 5:7; 6:14-15
obtain mercy.
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’
What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who
he has faith but does not have works? Can faith does the will of My Father in heaven. Many
save him? If a brother or sister is naked and will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we
2:14-16 destitute of daily food, and one of you says to 7:21-23 not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons
them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” in Your name, and done many wonders in Your
but you do not give them the things which are name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I
needed for the body, what does it profit? never knew you; depart from Me, you who
practice lawlessness!’
But the wisdom that is from above is first pure,
then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of
mercy and good fruits, without partiality and Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be
3:17-18 18 5:9
without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of called sons of God.
righteousness is sown in peace by those who
make peace
Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know No one can serve two masters; for either he
that friendship with the world is enmity with will hate the one and love the other, or else he
4:4 6:24
God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of will be loyal to the one and despise the other.
the world makes himself an enemy of God You cannot serve God and mammon
Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the
Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and
4:10 5:3-4 kingdom of heaven 4 Blessed are those who
He will lift you up
mourn, For they shall be comforted
Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He 2
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with
who speaks evil of a brother and judges his
what judgment you judge, you will be judged;
4:11 brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the 7:1-2
and with the measure you use, it will be
law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer
measured back to you.
of the law but a judge.
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth,
Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are
5:2 6:19 where moth and rust destroy and where
thieves break in and steal;
My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is
5:10 the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering 5:12 your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted
and patience. the prophets who were before you.
But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either
by heaven or by earth or with any other oath. But You have heard that it was said to those of old,
5:12 5:27
let your “Yes” be “Yes,” and your “No,” “No,” lest ‘You shall not commit adultery.
you fall into judgment

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James: The Author and the Epistle

8) James and Pauline Teachings

a) No real conflict between Pauline justification by faith and James
b) Both Paul and James cite Genesis 15:6
i) Romans 4:3, “For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was
accounted to him for righteousness.””
ii) James 2:23, “And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was
accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God.”
c) Alleged conflict:
i) Romans 3:28, “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds
of the law”
ii) James 2:21,24, “Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his
son on the altar? … You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only “
d) “The teachings of James and Paul run parallel; they stand back to back, fighting error on
both sides of the truth. Paul refuted the need for good works as necessary for
justification before God (Romans 4:4-5; Ephesians 2:8-9); James insisted upon the need
for good works by the justified as proof of the living nature of saving faith. Paul agreed
with James that saving faith manifests itself in a life of good works (Galatians 5:6;
Ephesians 2:10)” (Hiebert, p. 36)
9) James and Theology:
a) “a great deal of ‘compressed theology’” (Hiebert p 39) rich in doctrinal implications
i) 1:18, “Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth”
ii) 1:21, “the implanted word, which is able to save your souls”
iii) 2:5, “heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him”
iv) 4:5, “The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously”
v) 5:9, “Behold, the Judge is standing at the door!”
b) About God:
i) Affirms the unity of God but no explicit Trinitarian teaching (2:19; 4:12)
ii) God is the creator of the universe and men (1:17; 3:9; 5:4)
iii) God is unchangeably good (1:17)
iv) God does not tempt men to evil (1:13-14)
c) The 2nd Person of the Trinity
i) His Lordship! “the Lord Jesus Christ” (1:1; 2:1)
ii) His return: “the Judge is standing at the door!” (5:9)
iii) That Jesus is God:
(1) “There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy” (4:12)
(2) Jesus is “the Judge is standing at the door!” (5:9)

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James: The Author and the Epistle

10) Basic Outline of James

a) ESV Study Bible

I. Greeting (1:1)
II. The Testing of Faith (1:2–18)
III. Hearing and Doing the Word (1:19–27)
IV. The Sin of Partiality (2:1–13)
V. Faith without Works Is Dead (2:14–26)
VI. The Sin of Dissension in the Community (3:1–4:12)
VII. The Sins of the Wealthy (4:13–5:12)
VIII. The Prayer of Faith (5:13–18)
IX. Concluding Admonition (5:19–20)

b) Regular Baptist Press

I. Greeting (1:1)
II. Faith is Resilient in Trials (1:2-12)
III. Faith is Resistant to Temptation (1:13-18)
IV. Faith is Responsive the Scriptures (1:19-27)
V. Faith is Respectful of Others (2:1-13)
VI. Faith is Ratified by Good Works (2:14-26)
VII. Faith is Restrictive of the Tongue (3:1-12)
VIII. Faith is Righteous in Conflict (3:13-18)
IX. Faith is Ravaged by Worldliness (4:1-6)
X. Faith is Rejuvenated by Submission (4:7-10)
XI. Faith is Receptive to God’s Will (4:13-17)
XII. Faith is Reasonable toward a Brother (4:11,12; 5:1-12)
XIII. Faith is Remorseful for Sin (5:13-20)

11) Resources
a) Faith that Works, Studies in the Epistle of James, Homer Kent Jr., BMH Books, c 2005
b) James, D. Edmond Hiebert, BMH Books, c 1979, 1992
c) ESV Study Bible, Introductory article on the epistle, Crossway Bibles, c 2008
d) Genuine Faith, Regular Baptist Press quarterly, c 2010
e) ISBE, The Epistle of James, International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Public domain
f) Shepherd’s Notes: James, Holman, c 1998

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