DATE: 45-50 AD
James is addressed “to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad” (James 1:1). There is some questioning of who wrote this letter. There are four men named James in the NT, but only two are proposed as the author of this letter–James the son of Zebedee (brother of John) and James the half-brother of Jesus. James, the son of Zebedee, was martyred in A.D. 44 (Acts 12:2) making his authorship unlikely. James, the half-brother of Jesus is considered the likely writer because of the authoritative tone of the letter and his position as the leader of the Jerusalem church (Acts 12:17; 15:13; 21:18). Similarities of the Greek in this epistle and the speech of James at the Council of Jerusalem (James 1:1 and Acts 15:23; James 1:27 and Acts 15:14; James 2:5 and Acts 15:13) also support his being the writer.
The mid-first century date is indicated by a lack of any reference to the Jerusalem Council (A.D. 49), by the use of the word “assembly” (synagogue) for the church in James 2:2, and by the strong expectation of the Lord’s soon return (James 5:7-9). The acceptance of this letter as part of the canon was questioned until the church agreed its author was most likely the half-brother of Jesus. Martin Luther, who opposed the teachings of this letter because it says little about justification by faith, and emphasizes works, did not question the genuineness of James, only its usefulness in comparison with Paul’s epistles.
The book is not about justification. It is about sanctification. It speaks of the practical aspects of the Christian life. James wrote to provide God-honoring, ethical instruction. There are many subjects about which James writes, making the book like a series of brief sayings arranged in the form of a letter. The instructions explain how to be doers of the Word (James 1:22). In the 108 verses of the epistle, there are references or allusions from 22 Old Testament books and at least 15 allusions to Jesus’ teachings in the Sermon on the Mount. Key subjects include faith and works (James 2:14-26), the use of the tongue (James 3:1-12), and prayer for the sick (James 5:13-16).
OUTLINE OF JAMES
I. Greeting, 1:1
II. Trials, 1:2-18
A. The Purpose of Trials, 1:2-12
B. The Pedigree of Trials, 1:13-15
C. The Purpose of God, 1:16-18
III. The Word, 1:19-27
IV. Partiality, 2:1-13
A. The Command, 2:1
B. The Conduct, 2:2-3
C. The Consequences, 2:4-13
V. Faith and Works, 2:14-26
A. The Inquiry, 2:14
B. The Illustration, 2:15-17
C. The Indoctrination, 2:18-26
VI. Sins of the Tongue, 3:1-12
A. Its Bridling, 3:1-4
B. Its Boasting, 3:5-12
VII. True Wisdom, 3:13-18
VIII. Worldliness, 4:1-17
A. Its Cause, 4:1-2
B. Its Consequences, 4:3-6
C. Its Cure, 4:7-10
D. Its Characteristics, 4:11-17
IX. Riches, Patience, and Swearing, 5:1-12
X. Prayer, 5:13-18
XI. The Conversion of the Erring, 5:19-20
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