James: Introduction

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Who was James?

  • The author is James (1:1), and he was probably the brother (most likely oldest, Matthew 13:55) of Jesus.
  • He was one of the select individuals Christ appeared to after His resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:7).
  • He was a leader of the Jerusalem council (Acts 15:13). Paul called him a “pillar” of the church (Galatians 2:9) and records visiting James in Galatians 1:19 and Acts 21:18.
  • He was martyred c. A.D. 62.
  • The letter was probably written in the early 60s, however, there are indications it could have been written before A.D. 50. If this early dating is correct, this letter is the earliest of all the NT writings – with the possible exception of Galatians.

The Book of James

  • As a leader of the Jerusalem church, James wrote as pastor to instruct and encourage his dispersed people in the face of their difficulties.
  • The recipients were Christians (2:1; 5:7-8) and most likely Jewish Christians, 1:1: “the twelve tribes scattered among the nations.” (A Jewish audience would be more in keeping with the obviously Jewish nature of the letter (e.g., the use of the Hebrew title for God, kyrios sabaoth, “Lord Almighty,” 5:4).
  • The letter emphasizes vital Christianity, characterized by good deeds and a faith that works (genuine faith must and will be accompanied by a consistent life-style).
  • It reveals familiarity with Jesus’ teachings preserved in the Sermon on the Mount (compare 2:5 with Matthew 5:3; 3:10-12 with Matthew 7:15-20; 3:18; with Matthew 5:9; 5:2-3 with Matthew 6:19-20; 5:12 with Matthew 5:33-37).


I. Greetings (1:1)
II. Trials and Temptations (1:2-18)

A. The Testing of Faith (1:2-12)

B. The Source of Temptation (1:13-18)

III. Listening and Doing (1:19-27
IV. Favoritism Forbidden (2:1-13)
V. Faith and Deeds (2:14-26)
VI. Taming the Tongue (3:1-12)
VII. Two Kinds of Wisdom (3:13-18)
VIII. Warning against Worldliness (ch. 4)
A. Quarrelsomeness (4:4)

B. Spiritual Unfaithfulness (4:4)

C. Pride (4:5-10)

D. Slander (4:11-12)

E. Boasting (4:13-17)

IX. Warning to Rich Oppressors (5:1-6)
X. Miscellaneous Exhortations (5:1-6)
A. Concerning Patience in Suffering (5:7-11)

B. Concerning Oaths (5:12)

C. Concerning the Prayer of Faith (5:13-18)

D. Concerning Those Who Wander from the Truth (5:19-20)

Note: The material for this introduction was adapted from the NIV Study Bible, New International Version, Zondervan, (Introduction to James, pp. 1878-1879).

© New Testament Christian

Please include the following statement on any distributed copy:
By Kevin Haag. © New Testament Christian. Website: new-testament-christian.com. Email: admin@new-testament-christian.com.

Recommended Resources

MacArthur Commentary on James

James, MacArthur Bible Study Guide

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