A Brief Biography of Jesus’ Brother (Part Three)

[Okay, admittedly, today’s post is short (other than the footnotes), but we thought the last part (coming Wednesday) deserved its own post].

James the Writer

Though there is dispute about when exactly James (whose name is actually Jacob*[1]) took up his pen and wrote the letter that bears his name, the fact remains that he did indeed write.*[2]  In accordance with his status as a leader within the Jewish congregations and his acknowledgement that his mission was to the circumcision, he wrote his letter to Jewish Christians.*[3]

Throughout the Scriptures, James appears as a man who was interested in putting his religion into action.  He understood the truth of the gospel, but his focus was on “how do we make this practical?”  This is seen in the letter that he wrote in Acts 15, in his request of Paul in Acts 21, and in almost every verse of his epistle.  And since judgment from God is based on one’s works,*[4] James focuses on teaching his readers about the works to do and works to avoid, emphasizing that “faith without works is dead,” and that “by works a man is justified.”*[5]

[1] *In Greek, the name is Iacobus, which is the Hebrew name Jacob spelled in Greek letters.  Some have suggested that the name “James” was used because of King James, but Miles Coverdale, in his translation of 1535, used Iames—before King James was even born.

[2] *This letter was written near the end of James’ life, sometime between AD 62-67.  For a more detailed discussion of the dating of this epistle, see the introduction in Justified by Works: A Study of the Letter from James by this author.

[3] *There are those, such as Guy N. Woods (A Commentary on the Epistle of James, pages 16-17, 31-32), who claim it was written to all Christians—Jew and Gentile—but such a view doesn’t match up with the fact that James called their meeting place a “synagogue” (James 2:2), or that he wrote to the twelve tribes of the diaspora (James 1:1).  When these facts are considered along with his Jew-only mission (Galatians 2:9) and his insistence upon keeping the Law of Moses (Acts 21:17-26), it demands that his letter was written to Jews.  For more information, see this author’s commentary on James.

[4] *See all instances of judgment throughout both testaments, and also consider 2 Corinthians 5:10.

[5] *James 2:20, 24.  Since judgment is made by God on the basis of our works, one must be very cautious before rejecting brethren based exclusively on their beliefs, especially when those beliefs do not affect (1) the plan of salvation, (2) their works [including worship], or (3) anything the Bible connects to salvation.  There are those who reject brethren over such things as their interpretation of the book of Revelation, or of their belief regarding how the Holy Spirit indwells a Christian.  The Scriptures never state that we will be judged based on our level of theological understanding, but on our works.

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