The Epistle of James was written by a brother of Jesus. James did not believe in Jesus during His earthly ministry (see John 7:5) but responded in faith when Jesus appeared to him after His resurrection (see 1 Cor. 15:7). He was a leader in the Jerusalem church and made a key speech during the Jerusalem Council of a.d. 49 (Acts 15). Though he felt called to evangelize Jews, he affirmed Paul’s call to evangelize Gentiles (see Gal. 2:9). He was executed for his faith in a.d. 62.
His epistle was likely the first book written in the New Testament! Since it doesn’t refer to the Jerusalem Council, it was probably written before that key event. Many scholars date it in the mid-40s or earlier, prior even to Galatians.
James addressed his epistle to Jewish believers scattered throughout the Roman Empire—no doubt including those who had been persecuted and fled Jerusalem after the martyrdom of Stephen (see Acts 8:1). Given the Jewish audience, it’s no surprise that in his letter James refers or alludes to 22 books of the Old Testament.
His tone and purpose are pastoral, and the letter focuses on practical matters about how to live the Christian life. Topics include obedience, good works, speaking and listening, favoritism, and the temptations of wealth and worldliness; but the main theme is persevering through trials in order to grow to mature faith (vv. 2–4).
This epistle includes a mix of other genres. It often reads more like a collection of proverbs or aphorisms (its most common literary technique) than a letter, and thus it has much in common with wisdom literature. Several passages also feature prophecy-style condemnations of sin or sermon-style exhortations to righteousness.
Please join us in prayer for Moody’s Facilities Maintenance team as they work diligently on various repair and painting projects on campus. We are grateful for the service of Paul Heggeland, Thomas Addison, and Vincent Camera.