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Lesson 01

RETURN TO SYLLABUS
JAMES
Lesson #01
INTRODUCTION TO A THORNY BOOK

  • The book of James has caused more controversy than any other book of the Bible. Theologians have fought over who was the author, when it was written, to whom it was written, whether or not it should be in the Bible, and its unity. These are some very thorny problems we will consider in this lesson.

  • The general epistles:

  • James is one of the general letters that make up the New Testament. It is general in that it is not written to a specific person or to a specific church. Other “general epistles” are: 1 and 2 Peter, 1, 2, 3 John, and Jude.
    • They are written to the Christian body of Christ as a whole and fall into the category of “wisdom literature”.
  • CONTENT OF THE GENERAL EPISTLES

    The authors

    The emphasis of the content

    Paul Faith
    James Conduct
    Peter Hope
    John Love
    Jude Purity

    • Who wrote the book of James? – Thorn #1 Identity

    • The obvious answer is, James, to which most would agree. However, the big problem occurs in identifying the person named James. This was a common name at the time and there are several possibilities.
      • There are clearly three identifiable men by the name of James in the New Testament, and possibly four.
        • =1= James, the brother of John, who is one of the sons of Zebedee. Jesus called these two brothers, “sons of thunder” (Mar 3:17).
          • This man named James was killed by Herod. (Act 12:1-2)
            • His death occurred before this book was written.
        • =2= James, the son of Alphaeus. He is sometimes called, “James the less”, which meant he was short in stature. (Mar 15:40).
          • He was a cousin of Jesus through Mary, the mother of Jesus.
        • =3= The father of Judas, not Judas Iscariot.(Luk 6:16)
        • =4= James, the half brother of Jesus. He was born to Mary and Joseph after the birth of Jesus. (Mat 13:55 Gal 1:19)
          • His actual name was Jacob(ya’aqob) and not James. The names James, Jacob, Jake all come from the same root word.
          • It is this James that many, including your teacher, believe wrote the book of James.
          • This man named James became a believer after the crucifixion along with others of Jesus’ family. (Joh 7:5)
            • James saw the resurrected Jesus. (1Cor 15:7)
          • This James became the leader of the Jerusalem church (Act 15).
          • This James became a strong, respected leader among the New Testament churches. (Gal 2:9)
          • He was called, James the just.
          • He was a Pharisee.
          • Tradition says that he died when he was thrown from the top of the temple and then stoned. (62 AD according to the historian Josephus).
      • When was the book of James written? – Thorn #2 The date

        • The controversy over the date of the authorship relates to the controversy over the author.
        • It is most likely that James wrote this little book around 45-50 AD and probably closer to 48 AD as he does not mention the Jerusalem council in Act 15 which occurred in 50 AD.

        • To whom was the book of James written? — Thorn #3 The recipients

          • James wrote the book to the scattered 12 tribes of Israel. (1:1)
            • This makes it a definite Jewish book written from a Jewish perspective and to Jews who became Christians.
              • As a Pharisee, James refers to some very Jewish practices, Jewish symbolisms, and Jewish experiences in this book.
            • James wrote to the Jewish Christians who were scattered toward the east (Babylon and Mesopotamia) by persecution.
              • Peter wrote to the Jewish Christians who were scattered toward the west (Rome) (1Pet 1:1).
          • Some theologians interpret Jam 1:1 to be a metaphorical statement referring to the New Testament church, and therefore, they deny its Jewishness.
            • However, we must remember that according to the book of Acts, the first church at Jerusalem, of which James was the pastor, was a Jewish congregation.

          • Does the book of James really belong in the bible? — Thorn #4 Canonicity

            • What is canonicity?
              • The word, canon, means a principle, a rule or standard. It is like a measuring stick.
                • Early in Christian history, church leaders decided on a standard by which they would judge whether a particular book measured up to the determined standard. If it measured up to the standard, it was made part of the Bible and said to be canonical.
            • There has been much argument over whether the early church leaders made a mistake putting the book of James in the Bible.
              • Martin Luther had problems with this book and its inclusion in scripture.
              • In fact, this book was left out of some of the very early Bibles. Therefore, even in the early church there existed this same controversy.
                • Churches in the east accepted the book while those in the west questioned it.
            • However, from the fourth and fifth centuries the book of James became a consistent part of scripture by a supernatural unification of thought and decision by God in the body of Christ.

            • What was the purpose for the book of James? – Thorn #5 Purpose

              • Some theologians say that James wrote the book against Paul’s doctrine of strict faith for salvation in order to approve and broadcast his own belief in works for salvation.
                • However, Paul did not write his first epistle until after James wrote this book.
                  • The book of James was probably the first new testament book written.
                • It is this controversy between Paul’s writings and James’ writings that caused some to say that the book of James should not be included in the Bible because the Bible never contradicts itself.
                  • However, the book of James was indeed included in holy scripture as an equal part of the inspired word of God. Therefore, we must, in some very adequate way, reconcile these apparent differences between Paul and James to gain the ultimate truth of God’s intention passed to us by the Holy Spirit.
                    • Even though James talks about works, his theme is faith and does not contradict Paul in any way. In reality it is two sides of the same coin.

              Paul

              James

              An inner saving faith from God’s perspective An outward serving faith from man’s perspective
                        • In our study, we will discuss in detail this thorn of the differences and similarities between the writings of James and those of Paul.
                • The theme of James’ book appears to be the Christian ethic rather than Christian doctrine. The Christian ethic pertains to how the believer practices his faith in Christ.
                  • James wants the Christian to become mature and holy.

              • What is the tone and the style of the book? – Thorn #6 Lack of unity

                • The tone of the book of James is very bold and outspoken as though to wake people up to some truth.
                  • In 108 verses there are 54 commands in this book. That means there is a call to action in an average of every other verse.
                    • This means that to put this book into practice in our lives, we are going to have to pay attention and obey some strong commands.
                • James’ tone dissects the reader’s personality, his motives, his habits, his practices, and his attitudes.
                  • It is as though the Christian is in a laboratory laid out on a slab ready for an autopsy by the forensic pathologist looking for the source of hypocrisy in the Christian patient.
                    • Remember that James was a Pharisee and Jesus spoke harshly against the Pharisees. Therefore, James had first-hand experience with hypocrisy.
                • The style of the book is energetic, direct, and filled with figures of speech, symbolisms, and metaphors.
                  • James uses many references to nature to which every person can relate.
                • James’ teachings are similar to those of John the Baptist and to Jesus’ sermon on the mount.
                • The thorn of unity:
                  • Because the book is so dynamic, it lacks some literary unity as James moves quickly from one subject to another very much like the book of Proverbs.
                  • However, since James’ purpose is to bring maturity and holiness to the life of the believer, that purpose is what holds the book together.

                • The theme and purpose of our study:

                  • In dealing with practical Christianity, we will determine how the believer should live his life in order to answer the question, what is a true Christian and how does his life appear?
                    • In other words, we will be the forensic pathologist and dissect the Christian life.
                  • Our theme will be: The true Christian

                  • Outline of the book of James:

                    • James deals with every aspect of the Christian life:
                      • What a Christian is, what he does, what he says, what he feels, and what he has. We can observe these 5 aspects in the outline of the 5 chapters of this book:
                      • Stand with confidence (Chapter 1)
                        • God’s tests of faith (1:1-12)
                        • Satan’s tests of faith (1:13-21)
                        • Tests of faith and the Word of God (1:22-27)
                      • Serve with compassion (Chapter 2)
                        • Tests of attitude and actions (2:1-13)
                        • Good works and faith tests (2:14-26)
                      • Speak with care (Chapter 3)
                        • Testing talk (3:1-12)
                        • Testing thought (3:13-18)
                      • Submit with contrition (Chapter 4)
                        • Turn hatred to humility (4:1-6)
                        • Turn judgment to justice (4:7-12)
                        • Turn boasting to belief (4:13-17)
                      • Share with concern (Chapter 5)
                        • Possessions (5:1-6)
                        • Patience (5:7-12)
                        • Prayer (5:13-20)

                    • Source material for our study:

                      • Through the Bible Commentary Series: The Epistles: James
                      • by J. Vernon McGee.

                      • Will the Real Phony Please Stand Up?
                      • By Ethel Barrett

                      • The Bible Knowledge Commentary: New Testament
                      • ; John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck.

                      • The Epistle of James
                      • by Willard C. Peirce.

                      • Life in Christ: A New Way of Doing Things
                      • by James Harmeling.

                      • Misc. Notes.

                       

                      HOMEWORK
                      James 1
                      This is a self-study. Please do not send homework answers to the teacher forcorrection.

                      • Preparation for Jam 1
                        • Read Jam 1:1-12
                          • What should be the Christian’s response to life’s problems?

                       

                        • Why do you think God tests faith?
                        •  

                            • What is the purpose of God’s tests?
                              • Memory verse: Jam 1:3
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      About Joyce

      Joyce
      I came to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ in 1963 giving my heart to Jesus in a Billy Graham crusade in Los Angeles, CA. I have been teaching the Word of God since 1964, Usually two to three adult classes a week.

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