James 1:1 NKJV
James 1:1 “James, a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,
To the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad:
Today we begin a new series studying the book of James in the New Testament. James opens the book named after him by clearly stating he is a bond servant, or a slave of God and the Lord Jesus Christ. It’s important that James gave Jesus the title of Lord because that meant he considered Jesus to be God.
James an Epistle in the New Testament is often attributed to James, the half-brother of Jesus (they shared the same Mother). He was also known as James the Just, and according to the greeting, the book was written to Jewish brothers who scattered throughout the world (Davids, Peter H (1982). The Epistle of James: A Commentary on the Greek Text. New International Greek Testament Commentary (Repr. ed.). Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans).
So, why do scholars primarily believe James the brother of Jesus wrote the Book of James? In I Corinthians 15:7, we read after the resurrection “He was seen by James, then by all the apostles.” This James has been identified as the half brother of Jesus. (https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary/1-corinthians-15/)
We know from John 7:2-5, “Now the Jews’ Feast of Tabernacles was at hand. His brothers therefore said to Him, “Depart from here and go into Judea, that Your disciples also may see the works that You are doing. For no one does anything in secret while he himself seeks to be known openly. If You do these things, show Yourself to the world.” For even His brothers did not believe in Him.” So, while Jesus was alive his brothers did not believe He was the Messiah, however, they knew Jesus well. They knew his deeds. They knew how he treated their Mother. They saw Him worship at Temple and in the Synagogue.
James the Just knew Jesus had been crucified and that his Mother, Mary was present to see Him die, then Jesus appeared to him after the resurrection. It was then that James the Just, half brother of Jesus believed.
Also, it’s notable that even early scholars (3rd Century) believed James the Just, half-brother of Jesus who was also head of the church in Jerusalem, authored the book of James (Camerlynck, Achille (1910). "Epistle of St James". The Catholic Encyclopedia. Retrieved 16 May 2012). Certainly, James the Just, half brother of Jesus had a unique perspective about Jesus.
As head of the church in Jerusalem, James was well aware of the turmoil in the region due to Nero’s rise to power in 54 A.D. (https://www.history.com/topics/ancient-history/nero). The emperor made it his mission to exterminate ‘The People of the Way’ (now called Christians). It is believed that James the Just, Head of the Church in Jerusalem was martyred around 62 A.D.
It’s interesting to note that in Acts 1:8, prior to Jesus’ Ascension to heaven, he told his disciples, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
As a result of the persecutions, many disciples were martyred by the Romans, the followers of the Way (Christians) did scatter to Judaea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. The scattering is known as the Diaspora.
We know from Paul’s writings in Galatians 2:9 that James was mentioned as one of the three pillars of the early church so James the Just stayed in Jerusalem, “James, Cephas (Peter), and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that had been given to me, they gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised.” The reference that the three served the circumcised meant they ministered to the Jews. James’ recognition by Paul was important enough that he made mention of it to the church in Galatia.
In Acts 15, James is said to be principal author of the Apostolic Decree (the Council of Jerusalem held after 50 A.D.) The book of James would have been written sometime between the Council of Jerusalem and James’ death in the early 60’s.
So, why all the history about James and the early Christians? Well, the relationship of James’ life and position in the early church and his authoring the Epistle of James tells us that even though James was not one of the original twelve disciples, he did know Jesus as his older half brother.
James was raised in the same Jewish household as Jesus. He was well versed in their customs and religious practices. As one of the younger brothers of Jesus, James would have known things about Jesus no one else knew.
James would have also known that Jesus said the disciples would scatter. In James 1:1, when he identified himself as a bond servant of God he was saying he would do anything God asked. Even though many disciples and Apostles scattered, James would also have known how important it was that the church in Jerusalem would be well-grounded in the teachings of Jesus. James also knew that by staying in Jerusalem, he would face great personal danger. Even knowing that he chose to accept the call to be head of the church in Jerusalem.
The letter of James was written to Jews who lived outside of Jerusalem. The Jews reading the letter would have taken the writings of James (Head of the church in Jerusalem) seriously.
The Epistle of James consistently speaks of trials and temptations, turning from sin, humble living, and prayer. James was known to be a great pray-er, so much so that he had callous’ on his knees (https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary/james-1/).
The letter of James is straight forward and to the point.
I have found great comfort from the book of James in my lifetime, especially when I’ve been faced with trials. Many of the early scriptures I memorized in my 20’s came from the book of James, and I still rely on those verses today. It’s a great read and I look forward to studying it (again).
Today’s Spiritual Practice is: memorize
Choose one scripture to memorize. It doesn’t need to be a long passage, but it would help you if it meant something to you. Memorizing it will bless you.
In God, Deborah