Read James 1:1
1James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,
To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations:
We will look at the book of James over the next number of weeks. James is an interesting book. It has a history where there are those who have argued that it should not be in the New Testament to those who believe it was written by one who knew Jesus and should be included.
The problem comes in that the book is a late addition to any lists people were making of Holy Scriptures in the first 300 years after Christ’s resurrection. It took hundreds of years to finally settle on the list of books we call the Christian Bible. This was difficult to do in the first 300 years because it was illegal to be a Christians and to gather together.
Another problem that arises is “who is this James?” There were two of the 12 named James. James is one of the names listed for the children of Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ.” And there are other James mentioned in Scripture who we know nothing about. Most people have come down with this being the brother of Jesus Christ. Jerome came up with the idea that this was the cousin of Jesus Christ and possibly, the apostle named James, the son of Alphaeus. The other apostle named James was the brother of the apostle John.
What we do know is that James, the brother of Jesus became a very influential leader of the Jewish Christian church. He was as much Jewish as he was a Christian. He still faithfully followed all the Jewish laws. Because of his piety, he was now as James the Just. He was killed by the Jewish authorities in either 62 or 66 AD, depending on the historical source. If we take this date and that James wrote the letter, then Paul’s letters would not have been in wide circulation yet. James would have heard of Paul’s teaching, but not seen it. James probably even me with Paul as we see from Acts.
Some object that the letter does not contain great theological thoughts. There is little mention of the name of Christ and no reference to the resurrection. And the one thing that perplexes many is that the Greek in this letter is some of the best Greek ever written. This leads many to wonder if James, a Jew from the Palestine area could write such excellent Greek.
So many believe that what we actually have here is a sermon that James preached. If you think about sermons you have heard, one sermon never mentions all the theological ideas out there and not all mention the crucifixion of Christ. It is believed that what we have is that someone listened to the sermon and then wrote it down, one who knew Greek and crafted it into a letter to be sent to others so that the thoughts in the sermon could be shared with many.
The audience, the twelve tribes scattered among the nations, could mean one of two groups. It could mean the Jews scattered outside of Palestine or it could refer to the larger Christian Church. Many took this thought early on as they believed the Christian Church took the place of the Jewish Faith when the Jews rejected Jesus.
When you read the letter, you will find that a Jewish person and a Christian person could both read this letter and agree with what it says. That is because it is a practical letter. It at the day to day living level and not the theological level like Romans. Some say that this letter goes against Paul’s teaching on faith vs works, but we shall see that James is probably not contradicting Paul but addressing those that are interpreting Paul’s emphasis on faith not works that nothing is required of us. Paul doesn’t even say this.
I hope you enjoy this short letter of the Bible.
Blessings and Peace