The Epistle
of James
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II. Author of the Epistle.

The address of the epistle states that the writer is "James, a servant of God and of the Lord
Jesus Christ" (Jas 1:1). The tradition of the church has identified this James with the brother of
our Lord. Clement of Alexandria says that Peter and James and John, who were the three
apostles most honored of the Lord, chose James, the Lord's brother, to be the bishop of
Jerusalem after the Lord's ascension (Euscb., HE, II, 1). This tradition agrees well with all the
notices of James in the New Testament books. After the death of James the brother of John,
Peter was thrown into prison, and having been miraculously released, he asked that the news
be sent to James and to the brethren (Ac 12:17). This James is evidently in authority in the
church at this time. In the apostolical conference held at Jerusalem, after Peter and Paul and
Barnabas had spoken, this same James sums up the whole discussion, and his decision is
adopted by the assembly and formulated in a letter which has some very striking parallels in its
phraseology to this epistle (Ac 15:6-29). When Paul came to Jerusalem for the last time he
reported his work to James and all the elders present with him (Ac 21:18). In the Epistle to the
Galatians Paul says that at the time of one of his visits to Jerusalem he saw none of the
apostles save Peter and James the Lord's brother (Ga 1:18-19). At another visit he received the
right hand of fellowship from James and Cephas and John (Ga 2:9). At a later time certain who
came from James to Antioch led Peter into backsliding from his former position of tolerance of
the Gentiles as equals in the Christian church (Ga 2:12).

All of these references would lead us to suppose that James stood in a position of supreme
authority in the mother-church at Jerusalem, the oldest church of Christendom. He presides in
the assemblies of the church. He speaks the final and authoritative word. Peter and Paul defer
to him. Paul mentions his name before that of Peter and John. When he was exalted to this
leadership we do not know, but all indications seem to point to the fact that at a very early period
James was the recognized executive authority in the church at Jerusalem, which was the church
of Pentecost and the church of the apostles. All Jews looked to Jerusalem as the chief seat of
their worship and the central authority of their religion. All Christian Jews would look to
Jerusalem as the primitive source of their organization and faith, and the head of the church at
Jerusalem would be recognized by them as their chief authority. The authoritative tone of this
epistle comports well with this position of primacy ascribed to James.

All tradition agrees in describing James as a Hebrew of the Hebrews, a man of the most rigid
and ascetic morality, faithful in his observance of all the ritual regulations of the Jewish faith.
Hegesippus tells us that he was holy from his mother's womb. He drank no wine nor strong
drink. He ate no flesh. He alone was permitted to enter with the priests into the holy place, and
he was found there frequently upon his knees begging forgiveness for the people, and his
knees became hard like those of a camel in consequence of his constantly bending them in his
worship of God and asking forgiveness for the people (Euseb., HE, II, 23). He was called James
the Just. All had confidence in his sincerity and integrity, and many were persuaded by him to
believe on the Christ. This Jew, faithful in the observance of all that the Jews held sacred, and
more devoted to the temple-worship than the most pious among them, was a good choice for
the head of the Christian church. The blood of David flowed in his veins. He had all the Jew's
pride in the special privileges of the chosen race. The Jews respected him and the Christians
revered him. No man among them commanded the esteem of the entire population as much as

Josephus (Ant., XX, ix) tells us that Ananus the high priest had James stoned to death, and that
the most equitable of the citizens immediately rose in revolt against such a lawless procedure,
and Ananus was deposed after only three months' rule. This testimony of Josephus simply
substantiates all that we know from other sources concerning the high standing of James in the
whole community. Hegesippus says that James was first thrown from a pinnacle of the temple,
and then they stoned him because he was not killed by the fall, and he was finally beaten over
the head with a fuller's club; and then he adds significantly, "Immediately Vespasian besieged
them" (Euscb., HE, II, 23). There would seem to have been quite a widespread conviction
among both the Christians and the Jews that the afflictions which fell upon the holy city and the
chosen people in the following years were in part a visitation because of the great crime of the
murder of this just man. We can understand how a man with this reputation and character would
write an epistle so Jewish in form and substance and so insistent in its demands for a practical
morality as is the Epistle of James. All the characteristics of the epistle seem explicable on the
supposition of authorship by James the brother of the Lord. We accept the church tradition
without hesitation.

The Epistle of James
A Practical Guide for
Tests of
1.        Purpose
2.        Source

Characteristics of
1.        Obeys
2.        Not prejudice
3.        Works
4.        Controls the Tongue
5.        Wise
6.        Humble
7.        Dependent

Triumph of
1.        Endures
2.        Prays
3.        Confronts the Erring
Faith without works is dead
James has been referred to as the Proverbs of the New Testament. It is
practical wisdom for Christian living. It presents where faith meets life.

Trials and temptations face us all. It is important to understand the
purpose and the source of temptation.

Faith demands and creates a certain behavior

If you have faith, you will obey. If you do not obey, you do not have
faith. It is this concept in James that caused Martin Luther to call it “a
right strawy epistle.”

One cannot be prejudice, judging upon the outside and have the faith of
Christ and God. It does not depend upon what you wear, or how you
look, it depends upon what type of person you are, and how you act.

Faith will produce works. Too many people say they believe, but you
would never know it by the way they act. There needs to be a
consistency there.

That consistency even includes controlling the tongue. That would be
not cussing, swearing or blygarding (as my mother-in-law used to say);
but, it also include the content of what we say – gossip, blasphemy, etc.

Wisdom is the gift of God to those who have faith.

Humility is characteristic of those who have faith, realizing their
relationship to God and to His Christ.

Dependance upon the Father and the Son is part of faith. Faith is belief,
but it is also trust.
Faith will allow us to triumph if we endure. As we keep the faith, the
faith will keep us.
Faith will also express itself in prayer, as we speak in full assurance unto
the Father through the Son.

Faith will also engender a concern for the erring, and a willingness to
seek them out.
Above all, James teaches us that it is possible to be dead spiritually even
if we believe. If our faith is not active, if our faith does not cause us to
work, our faith is dead and useless.