Daily Devotion Text

September 4, 2017

James 1

By carmenhsu In Devotion Text, James with Comments Off on James 1

A Study Through the Book of James

The title of this book derives from the name of its author, James the Just (as he was called), the brother of Jesus (Matt. 13:55) and leader of the Jerusalem church (Acts 15). There is general consensus regarding his authorship, though some have challenged this on the grounds that: (1) the Greek is too polished and the rhetoric too Hellenistic for someone who never left Palestine; (2) the author never calls himself Jesus’ brother; and (3) the author seems to be interacting with Pauline issues on faith and works, justification, and liberty and so had to write much later than James could have written, since he was executed in A.D. 62.

There is no good reason, however, to deny that James the Just is the author. As scholars now recognize, there was substantial contact between Jews and Gentiles, especially in Galilee where James grew up. Moreover, James is not reacting to Pauline issues but rather addressing similar themes in his own church; it is possible he is addressing a misunderstanding of Paul’s teaching, but that could have been quite early since Paul wrote Galatians in A.D. 48. It is also possible that James is writing so early that he has no knowledge of any of Paul’s letters.

The historicity of James the Just is well confirmed in historical literature (e.g., Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 20.200–201; Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 2.23).[1]

Traditionally James has been read as a more or less random collection of ethical instructions for believers in general. But there is probably more order to it than first meets the eye. The main concerns are mapped out in 1:2-18, which basically takes the form of consolation to believers in exile: Trials may serve to test for the good (vv. 2-4, 12) or tempt toward evil (vv. 13-15); wisdom is God’s good gift for enduring and profiting from trials (vv. 5-8, 16-18); in God’s eyes the low and high position of poor and rich are reversed (vv. 9-11).

The next section (1:19-2:26) is in three parts, held together by James’s concern that his hearers put their faith into practice—at the very practical level of one’s speech and of caring for the poor. He begins by denouncing community dissension, insisting that people actually do what the word says, not just talk about it (1:19-25).

This is applied specifically to the tongue and to caring for the poor (vv. 26-27) and then to wrong attitudes toward the rich and the poor (2:1-13). He concludes the section where he began, by insisting that faith must be accompanied by deeds appropriate to faith (vv. 14-26).

The next section (3:1-4:12) returns to the matter of dissension within the believing communities. He starts with the perennial problem child—the tongue (3:1-12; cf. 1:26), which in this case is aimed at their teachers in particular. Returning to the theme of true wisdom, which leads to peace (3:13-18; cf. 1:5-8), James then attacks their quarrels head-on (4:1-12).

Related to the way that the first mention of wisdom (1:5-8) is followed by a blessing of the poor and warnings to the rich, here in reverse order there is a twofold word to the rich (4:13-17; 5:1-6) and a call to patience on the part of the suffering poor (5:7-11). The letter concludes with a warning against oaths (v. 12), a call to prayer—especially prayer for the sick (vv. 13-18)—and correction of the wayward (vv. 19-20).[2]

[1] ESV: Study Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Bibles, 2008. 2387.

[2] Fee, Gordon D, and Douglas K. Stuart. How to Read the Bible Book by Book: A Guided Tour. Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 2002. 397-398.

Scroll to top