- Scholars in different traditions disagree about the relationship of James to Jesus; some believe he was Jesus’ half-brother, others believe he was a cousin.
- The James who wrote the New Testament book is not likely to have been James the son of Zebedee and brother of John (Mark 10:35). Scholars believe this partly because James the son of Zebedee was martyred very early, probably around 44AD (Acts 12:2).
- James was not a believer during Jesus’ earthly ministry (John 7:5).
- After His resurrection Jesus appeared to James (1 Corinthians 15:7).
- James was a leader among the body of believers in Jerusalem (Acts 15).
- Paul referred to James as an apostle (Galatians 1:19).
James addressed his letter to “the twelve tribes in the Dispersion” (James 1:1). These were believing Jews who were lived outside of Palestine. The bulk of James’ original readers were probably poor.
James’ writing was very direct and practical. He did not mince words. His style suited his message – one of action. He wanted his readers to choose holiness in what they said and in what they did, as a reflection of their faith in Jesus Christ.
Main Themes in James’ Writing
James spent a lot of time discussing suffering (such as James 1:2-4). He emphasized that while faith is essential, works are the fruit of faith, and the lack of such fruit is evidence that faith is dead (James 2:14-26). Even our words bear external witness of our internal spiritual state; James repeatedly admonished believers to tame the tongue (James 3:1-12). He warned against worldliness (James 4:4).
“More than any other book in the New Testament, James places the spotlight on the necessity for believers to act in accordance with our faith. How well do your actions mirror the faith that you proclaim?” (Chuck Swindoll)
If you want to be inspired to action, James is the book to read!
Painting of James by Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640)