Author: James (Jas 1:1) (Greek
"Iakobos" Hebrew "Yaakov" should be literally translated "Jacob")
There are four men named James in the Bible:
1. James, Jesus' half-brother (same mother: Mary, different father: Joseph vs God)(Mt 13:55)(Mk 6:3)(Gal 1:19)
*** He was likely the 2nd oldest child of Mary since he is listed first in the names of Jesus' brothers.
2. James (Son of Zebedee, brother of John)(Mt 4:21)(Mt 10:2)(Mt 17:1)(Mk 3:17)(Mk 10:35)(Mk 13:3)(Lk 9:54)(Acts 1:13)
*** He was martyred about 44 A.D. by King Herod (Acts 12:2).
3. James (Son of Alphaeus)(Mt 10:3)(Mk 3:18)(Lk 6:15)(Acts 1:13)
*** He was also called "the less" (Mk 15:40).
4. James (father of Judas: not Iscariot)(Lk 6:16)(Acts 1:13)
Nearly all scholars believe that James, the Lord's brother, wrote this Epistle. There are a
number of similarities in language between the book of James and the speech of James as found in
(Acts 15). (i.e. The Greek word "chairo" is translated as "greeting" only in [Jas 1:1][Acts 15:23]
and one other place in the New Testament. The Greek word "episkeptomai" is translated as
only in [Jas 1:27][Acts 15:14] and two other places in the New Testament.)
We can see from (Jn 7:3-5) that James apparently was not a believer in Jesus during His life on
Earth. This is likely why Jesus turned the care of His mother Mary over to John in His dying
words on the cross (Jn 19:25-27). However, Jesus appeared to James during one of His
post-resurrection appearances (1 Cor 15:7), at which time James became an apostle (one who had
seen the risen Christ) and certainly a believer.
After Jesus' post-resurrection appearance to him, we find James at Jerusalem in the
during Pentecost, praying with the disciples, his brothers (who also became believers: 1 Cor 9:5),
and his mother Mary (Acts 1:14). (His younger brother Jude later wrote the Epistle of Jude
Shortly after this, James presided over the church at Jerusalem (probably for the rest of his
life). Paul called him, along with Peter and John, "pillars of the church" (Gal 2:9), and it
appears he was revered by both Christians and Jews, including Peter and Paul (see: [Acts 12:17][Acts 21:18][Gal 1:19][Gal 2:9 - Paul listed James's name before Peter and John][Gal 2:12]). In
fact, Peter paraphrased a number of passages from James when he wrote 1st Peter. Compare:
(James 1:1) / (1 Pet 1:1)
(James 4:1) / (1 Pet 2:11)
(James 1:2) / (1 Pet 1:6, 4:12-15)
(James 4:6) / (1 Pet 5:5-6)
(James 1:11) / (1 Pet 1:24)
(James 4:7) / (1 Pet 5:9)
(James 1:18) / (1 Pet 1:3)
(James 4:10) / (1 Pet 5:6)
(James 2:7) / (1 Pet 4:14)
(James 5:20) / (1 Pet 4:6)
(James 3:13) / (1 Pet 2:12)
In (Acts 15:1-29), we find James presiding over the "Council at Jerusalem" (app. 49 A.D.) which
was called to decide whether Gentile converts to Christianity had to undergo circumcision to be
The New Testament is silent about the later years of James, the Lord's brother, and apart from the
references above, the Bible tells us nothing else about him. However, tradition tells us a few
1. He was called "old camel knees" (his knees were hard like a camel's) because he spent so much time on
his knees in prayer.
2. He was called a "Hebrew of the Hebrews" because of his faithful observance of all the ritual regulations
of the Jewish faith.
(While he did not require Gentile Christians to obey these regulations [as per the
"Council at Jerusalem"]
he did continue to teach their observance to Jewish Christians [see: Acts 21:18-25].)
3. Josephus tells us that James was martyred (about 62 A.D.) when Ananias the High Priest ordered that he be
stoned to death. (Because James was so popular, a revolt occurred and Ananias was deposed after only a 3
month rule.) However, Hegesippus said that James was thrown from the pinnacle of the Temple, stoned
because he was not killed in the fall, and finally was beaten over the head with a fuller's club.
Because of the controversy surrounding the Epistle of James (i.e. the emphasis on works), it was
not made a part of the Canon until the 4th century. Therefore, it was not quoted by any church
father until Origen in the 3rd century, followed by Eusebius.
This was the 1st book of the New Testament to be written and the 1st of the 8
(James, Hebrews, 1 & 2 Peter, 1,2,3 John, Revelation), so called because they were addressed to
the "universal" (catholic) church and not to a certain individual or church.
Some have argued for a later date, but several strong factors point to this early dating:
1. Since there is no mention of the "Council at Jerusalem" (app. 49 A.D.), it was likely written before
2. There is no mention of Gentile Christians.
3. The use of words such as "assembly" (Gr. "Sunagoge" = Synagogue)(Jas 2:2) and
"sabaoth" (Hebrew for Lord
of Hosts)(Jas 5:4), as well as a church structure apparently based on elders (Jas 5:14) and teachers
(Jas 3:1), points to an early period when Jewish Christians were taught in synagogues by elders and
4. There was an expectation that the Lord would soon return (Jas 5:7-8) which coincides with other early
books such as 1 & 2 Thessalonians.
5. There is very little teaching on nearly all of the essential Christian doctrines (i.e. grace) which are
strongly emphasized in later Epistles.
6. In all early manuscripts, James stands before the Epistles of Paul.
Place Written: Likely Jerusalem (from which James never seems to have left)
"The twelve tribes which are scattered abroad" (Jas 1:1) (Jews who were believers [Jas 2:1]
[Jas 5:7-8] in Christ.)
To encourage and exhort the new and "scattered" Jewish Christians in the face of oppression and
persecution. (This came not only from the Romans, but also by their unsaved Jewish countrymen.)
To teach the practical duties of the Christian life.
More than half of the verses in James are commands, about one-quarter of the verses use references
from nature to illustrate a spiritual truth, and about one-third of the verses allude to the Old
The word "works" is used 13 times in James. Only in John and Revelation is this word used more.
As mentioned previously, because of this controversial emphasis James placed on works, James was
not made a part of the Canon until the 4th century. However, centuries later, it was still
controversial. Martin Luther refused to preach from the book of James and referred to it as,
"an Epistle of straw and destitute of an evangelistic character."
These controversies were based on the mistaken belief that James was opposing the doctrine of
justification by faith alone. However, James was simply saying that if you are a Christian, your
faith must produce good works to prove it is true faith, and if it does not produce good works,
you do not have saving faith and you are not a Christian at all.
In contrasting Paul's viewpoint with James', it is also said that Paul is speaking about the
justification of the sinner before God, while James is speaking about the justification of the
sinner before men.
It is also interesting to note that the book of James contains numerous parallels to Jesus'
"Sermon On The Mount" (Mt 5-7). Compare:
(James 1:2) / (Mt 5:10-12)
(James 3:11-12) / (Mt 7:16-20)
(James 1:4) / (Mt 5:48)
(James 3:17-18) / (Mt 5:9)
(James 1:19-20) / (Mt 5:22)
(James 4:11-12) / (Mt 7:1-5)
(James 2:8) / (Mt 5:43-44)
(James 5:2) / (Mt 6:19)
(James 2:13) / (Mt 5:7)
(James 5:12) / (Mt 5:33-37)
The divisions are five:
1. The testing of faith, 1:1-2:26.
2. The reality of faith tested by the tongue, 3:1-18.
3. The rebuke of worldliness, 4:1-17.
4. The rich warned.
(Survey from Scofield Reference Notes [1917 ed.]: Public Domain)