#097 Welcome to Episode #097 of Way of the Bible podcast. This is our first of eight episodes in our thirteenth mini-series entitled, General Epistles | James to Jude. On this episode, Faith Without Works is Dead, we’re going to overview the book of James. James was the half-brother of our Lord Jesus Christ, brother by the same mother, and the head of the church in Jerusalem.
While two of Jesus’ disciples were named James, his half-brother also named James is mentioned as the brother of Jesus twice in the Gospels (Matt. 13:55 and Mark 6:3). It is believed that while half-brother James was not a disciple of Jesus during his earthly ministry, he likely obeyed the command of Jesus to wait with his disciples in the Upper Room until on the Day of Pentecost they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. When Peter left Palestine (Acts 12:17) is when most scholars believe James became the leader of the Jerusalem church.
James was martyred in 62 AD. While some scholars date this book closer to his death many believe this may have been the earliest New Testament writing sometime between 46 and 49 AD. The reasons given include Gentiles believers are not mentioned by James with Jewish Christians. There is also little agreement of the allusions of Jesus’ verbal teaching to those contained in the Synoptic Gospels. James interchangeably uses the Greek term for synagogue and church which indicates at the time of writing the organization of the church was made up of simply elders and teachers as was the pattern of synagogue worship. And finally, James makes no mention of the Jerusalem Council found in Acts 15.
If you were to compare the literary style of the five chapters of James with Old Testament works, it could be called the Proverbs of the New Testament. And just as the book Proverbs is difficult to outline because of its many subjects, so too is the book of James. And also, like Proverbs, James’ focus and theme throughout the book is on Christian ethics in relationship to their justification.
Many people have mistakenly argued that in regard to justification, James and Paul are in disagreement. That is simply not the case. They both make the same claim that a person is justified by faith that saves, and saving faith that justifies produces good works. We are not justified by works but justified for good works.
With all that as a brief introduction, let’s get into the book.
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