Monday, May 18, 2009
10 Things About the Epistle of James
1. The author identifies himself as James…a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ (James 1:1). He is also the half-brother of Jesus…the same half-brother who would not have believed Jesus was the Messiah until after the Resurrection (Matthew 13:55; John 7:5; 1 Corinthians 15:7).
2. This would also be the same James who served as a leader in the early church as portrayed in the Book of Acts. Many scholars believe the scripture found within James predates the Jewish Council of A.D. 49 which opened Christianity officially and fully to the Gentiles (Acts 15). The Jewish historian, Josephus, wrote that James was martyred in A.D.62. Tradition indicates James was thrown from the pinnacle of the temple.
3. I wouldn’t be able to use James’ letter in my classroom to teach the parts of a letter that every fourth grader reviews since two of the usual features of a spiritual letter – the thanksgiving and the farewell – are missing. In fact, there are no pleasantries to begin the letter other than a very short opening. James jumps right in with both feet and proclaims…Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance…James 1: 2-3
4. James was written to Jewish followers – their meeting was in a synagogue (James 2:2) and were led by elders (James 5:14). James refers to the twelve tribes scattered among the nations…James 1:1… referring to the Jews living outside of Palestine. He was writing to Jews living in an unknown city in the Roman Empire where they spoke Greek, and there was no reference to the Gentiles.
5. The believers James addresses had experienced some sort of harassment and from reading the text you can come to the conclusion that they had been taken advantage of by the rich (James 1:2 and James 2:6). James was attempting to encourage these believers.
6. James is written to the Jews who believed in Jesus. He wanted them to realize the importance of faith in the practical sense. For James practical faith equaled good works…faith and good works go hand in hand. James teaches good works are essentially a fruit of salvation. In contrast, Paul emphasizes faith alone saves. James states…You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone…James 2:24.
7. James also wanted to teach the believers regarding the elements of a true religion taught in the Old Testament and by Jesus – giving, praying, fasting, living a holy life, caring for widows, orphans and the poor – were still part of the royal law of love that they were to live by (Matthew 6: 1-18; James 1:27).
8. The structure of James is rather loose. Each chapter could be summed up by assigning a key word for each…(1) trials, (2) works, (3) tongue, (4) wisdom (5) patience.
9. There are many parallels between James and Proverbs. James can be summed up by stating the scripture contains many practical themes that are loosely connected by everyday Christian living.
10. James also mirrors the Sermon on the Mount which James, as the half-brother of Jesus possibly heard…even though he was not yet a believer. The comparisons are:
-the poor to be rich in faith and inherit the Kingdom (James 2:5; Matthew 5:3)
-contrasting plant pairs such as grapes verses thorns (James 3: 10-12; Matthew 7: 15-20)
-blessing promised to peacemakers (James 3:18; Matthew 5:9)
- the ease with which earthly riches are corrupted (James 5:2-3; Matthew 6:19-20)
-swearing prohibited…your yes must be yes (James 5:12; Matthew 5:33-37)