The man who brings the harsh practicality to life.
The name James is derived from Jacob. The Hebrew version is Ya'akov which means to grasp or to cheat. The first "Jacob" is probably who most Hebrew men named James or Jacob were named after. This is the third major James mentioned in the just the New testament alone. The other two were James, the brother of John, son of Zebedee and James known as the less, son of Alphaeus. This James is actually a brother of Jesus, (Mark 6:3). It was written between 40-45 AD, perhaps the first New Testament book written. Some think it was written later near his death but with so many Jewish undertones it is more likely that is was written before or around the time he wrote a letter to Jews in Acts 15. It was written in Jerusalem.
This book is basically a manual for applying faith as opposed to Hebrews that is a dictionary of faith. You can tell it was heavily influenced by Proverbs and Jesus' Sermon on the Mount since half the book is "to do" statements. The verse of without works faith is dead is the most criticized verse in the Bible. The language used in the book is the most straight forward and in your face teachings than the rest.
This James was the non-believing brother of Jesus who was converted after the Resurrection (John 7:1-5, Acts 1:14). He had become the leader of the church of Jerusalem probably around the time that Peter started on his missions. Both Peter and Paul listened to him for advice. James is the one who wrote letter to Jews to tell them to accept people as brothers even though they had not converted to Judaism first in Acts. The book of Galatians calls him an Apostle (Emissary). But not the kind that is sent to other places, more like the one who is charged with church leadership. Tradition has it that James was martyred in 65 AD by being thrown off the temple by Ananus the high priest. Another story has him being stoned after refusing to denounce Jesus. A bystander came by and clubbed him in the head. The bystander said the last words by James were "forgive them for they don't know what they are doing".
Some of the main points are:
- Having temptations and knowing how to defeat them builds character. This character makes you who you are (1:2-4)
- Bad character brings death, good character brings life (1:12-18)
- There is no favoritism in God's eyes, so we should not do it (2:1-4)
- Faith needs action if it is going to have any value (2:26)
- The power of the prayer of faith (5:13-16)
At this time Christians were starting to become targets. It was not widely accepted yet, especially in Rome. Claudius had banned Christianity and the first of three major persecutions had started. Some had even been scattered due to the persecution and were having "faith" but not doing anything about it but running. This book was written to warn Christians that faith is more than just believing. True faith is expressed in all situations. Faith is not just believing in something. Faith is also a verb and sometimes using faith will cause disruption. Go back to Hebrews to study more.