Introduction to James

Historical Context

The book of James is known as one of the seven General Letters in the New Testament (addressed to Christians in general and not to a particular church). It has a distinctively Jewish nature—as can be seen from its many references to Old Testament characters such as Abraham, Rahab, Job, and Elijah and also through its references to nature, which was characteristic of the Jewish rabbis’ teaching in James’ day. This suggests that it was composed when the church was still predominantly Jewish.

Period Written

The book of James was written around the period of A.D.45-49, with many scholars estimating it to be before A.D. 50.

Author

The writer identifies himself as James, and he was probably the half-brother of Jesus and the leader of the Jerusalem church/council. As leader of the Jerusalem church, James wrote in his capacity as a pastor to encourage and exhort his people who were dispersed in the face of their difficulties.

Recipients

The recipients of the letter are Jewish Christians of the Diaspora who fled Jerusalem during the persecution of Stephen.

Key Theme

The primary theme of the letter is on living out one’s faith, being a doer and not just a hearer of the word. There is a greater emphasis on the practice of the Christian faith than on its truths. Its main concern is to provide practical wisdom for everyday living.

The letter discusses true religion, true faith and true wisdom.

Outline

  1. Greeting (1:1)
  2. The Testing of Faith (1:2–18)
  3. Hearing and Doing the Word (1:19–27)
  4. The Sin of Partiality (2:1–13)
  5. Faith Without Works Is Dead (2:14–26)
  6. The Sin of Dissension in the Community (3:1–4:12)
  7. The Sins of the Wealthy (4:13–5:12)
  8. The Prayer of Faith (5:13–18)
  9. Concluding Admonition (5:19–20)