·         James, but not the Apostle James

·         This gets a bit complicated:

o    Protestants believe he was the half-brother of Jesus

o    Catholics believe he was the step-brother of Jesus

o    Go here to read about the differences:  http://studythechurch.com/James%20brotherof%20Jesus.htm

·         James was also head of the house churches in Jerusalem. 

o    At that point Jerusalem was the leading Christian city, and, as head of the churches in Jerusalem, James was a very important Christian leader.

·         James was one of the leaders at the Council Jerusalem.

·         James died probably in 62 by being stoned by the Jewish leadership


Place and Time of Writing

·         Probably Jerusalem since James lived there.

·         Probably before the Council of Jerusalem, so we will say 48.


Unique Characteristic    

·         James is a General Epistle.

·         It contains little doctrine or theology; the letter is concerned mostly with Christian living.

·         All the books from James to Jude (this letter plus the next six letters) are referred to as “General Epistles.”  Most of them are written to all Christians, and so they are all put in the same category and called General Epistles. 

o    Note:  Sometimes these letters are referred to as “Catholic Epistles.”  In that case, the word “Catholic” does not mean the Catholic Church, but it is the original meaning of “catholic” which is “universal.”  So these letters are sometimes called “Catholic Epistles,” which means “universal epistles.” 

·         Note:  Remember that “epistle” is Greek for “letter.” 



·         This letter is addressed: “To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations”  (1:1) 

·         This is a code.  In the Old Testament the Jews had twelve tribes, but this letter is not addressed to the Jews. 

·         Some scholars believe it is written to Jewish Christians outside of Israel, but I (and others) tend to think it is addressed to all Christians.



·         True faith results in action; faith without works is dead


Opening James Up


Why did James write this letter?

We do not know how or when James became a Christian.  We do know that by the late 40s he was the leader of the house churches in Jerusalem.  Christianity did not have bishops at that point, but if they did James would be considered the bishop of Jerusalem.  To understand James better, we will compare him with Paul:







Traveled in NT Roman Empire

Faith & Unity





Paul’s main point in his sermons was that people needed faith.  On the other hand, James’ main point in his letter was that people needed to have action.  These points should not be understood as opposite but complimentary.  Think about it this way:

·         Paul, as a missionary, met many people, most of whom were not Christian.  Therefore it was necessary for him to mainly discuss the faith people should have in Jesus.  He also started many house churches, and his main focus for the churches was to have unity.

·         James, as a pastor, preached many sermons to Christians.  Therefore he did not need to focus on faith but instead on action, or “how to live as a Christian; after all, he wrote to people who did not need to hear about faith in Jesus because they had accepted Jesus.  Therefore he focused on the actions of a Christian.

    That is why James focused on action in his letter.  But still, why did he write the letter in the first place?  I believe it was because Christians had many questions in the 40s.  Remember that the Council in Jerusalem had not met when James wrote this letter.  That means that, although many Christians were certain about Jesus, they were confused concerning their lifestyle as Christians:  basically, how should they live?  Should they follow the Law of Moses?  Should they live as the pleased since they were forgiven?  Many Christians didn’t know.  Therefore, as a pastor, James decided to write a letter explaining how to live as a Christian to Christians, which meant that he did not need to discuss doctrine or theology.


Contents of James

James is basically a book of advice on how Christians should live.  It has a short greeting contained in one verse, and does not have a salutation but instead ends abruptly.  Examples of some of the advice:

·         1:2-4:  “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

·         1:19:  “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this:  Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”

·         3:9, 10:  “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness.  Out of the same mouth comes praise and cursing.  My brothers and sisters, this should not be.” 

·         3:17, 18:  “But the wisdom that comes form heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.  Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.” 





1:1:   Greetings

1:2-12:  The purpose of tests

1:13-18:  The source of temptations

1:19-5:6:  The characteristics of faith

5:7-20:  How faith triumphs


Timeline so far      Additions are boldfaced     All dates are approximate



Rome Empire conquered Israel without fighting


Julius Caesar assassinated by Brutus, Cassius, and others.  Mark Antony tries to seize power, and he and Octavian (Caesar’s nephew) fight for power.


The Roman Empire made Herod the Great king of Israel


Antony married Cleopatra in Egypt


Octavian’s forces defeated Antony and Cleopatra’s forces; they committed suicide the next year.


Octavian is given name of Augustus, becomes Augustus Caesar.  This is the beginning of Pax Romana

4 BC

Jesus born

4 BC

Joseph, Mary, and Jesus flee to Egypt because Herod the Great wanted to kill Jesus

4 BC

Herod the Great died

4 BC

After Herod the Great died, the kingdom of the Jews was divided and given to Herod’s three sons:

The northern part, north of Nazareth, went to Philip.

The middle part called Galilee, north of Jerusalem but where Nazareth was located, went to Herod Antipas.  (He is referred to as “Herod” in the Gospels and so this can be confusing.)

The southern part called Judea, where Jerusalem and Bethlehem was located, went to Herod Archelaus. 


All years after this point are AD



Joseph, Mary, and Jesus returned to Nazareth instead of moving to Bethlehem


Archelaus was removed from power because he was so brutal

6 and after

The Romans did not choose another of Herod’s descendants to control Judea (southern Israel) but instead appointed Roman governors


Jesus lost in Jerusalem at age 12; Joseph and Mary found him in the Temple; possible Bar Mitzvah


Jesus probably worked as a carpenter


The Roman governor in charge of southern Israel was Pilate


Jesus baptized by John the Baptist


Jesus traveled in Israel and preached, taught, and performed miracles


1.  Jesus was crucified under the Roman governor Pilate, raises from the dead three days later and ascends out of sight about a month-and-a-half later

2.  The Apostles return to Jerusalem and pick a replacement for Judas

3.  Day of Pentecost

4.  Over 3000 people become Christian

5.  Christianity spreads outside of Israel


Peter was the leader of the Christian movement


Paul became a Christian


Paul went on his First Missionary Trip


James written around this year


Council of Jerusalem

·         Paul, Peter, the Apostle John and James the half-brother of Jesus were present along with many others


We do not know what John did during this time period


Paul went on his Second Missionary Trip

·         Paul wrote Galatians, I Thessalonians, and II Thessalonians


Nero was Roman emperor


Paul went on his Third Missionary Trip

·         Paul wrote Romans, and I & II Corinthians


Paul arrested in Jerusalem, taken to Rome, and lived under house arrest

·         Paul wrote Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon


James, the author of the book of James, was stoned


Paul released from prison and travelled; he may have gone to Spain

  • Paul wrote I Timothy and Titus


Fire in Rome.  The emperor Nero blamed, persecuted, and killed many Christians.  This was the first Roman persecution of Christians. 


1.  Paul back in Rome

2.  Paul wrote II Timothy

3.  Peter and Paul martyred around this year in Rome


Some of the Jews got tired of the Roman rule and killed many Roman soldiers.  They thus took back the land of Israel for the Jews.


The Romans counter-attacked.  The Romans lost one battle, but won the war.


  • Mark written around this year

  • Hebrews written around this year


The Romans captured Jerusalem and burned the Temple. 


Matthew and Luke written around this year


Domitian is Roman emperor


John and Acts written around this year


1.  Persecution of Christians

2.  John was placed on the island of Patmos as a prisoner of Domitian


1.  Domitian died

2.  John was probably released from Patmos; he probably traveled to Ephesus where he stayed for the rest of his life


John died


First listing of the 27 books in a letter written by an Egyptian bishop


Two councils “closed” the NT canon to those 27 books


NT divided into chapters


NT divided into verses



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