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Christian Living

Who Wrote The Book of James A Practical Guide For Christians?

The book of James in the Bible is a letter that consists of five short chapters. Each one is packed with practical advice for Christian living. The author acknowledges the fact that life is not always straightforward. But he brings encouragement for us to live with an active enduring faith. The emphasis is on a consistent lifestyle, and a faith that works. There is much that is similar to the teachings of Jesus, so who wrote the book of James?

Who Wrote the Book of James In The Bible?

This short book is a practical guide for Christian living. It was written by someone well-known in the early church who had a quiet authority and was familiar to the recipients. Who are the candidates for the authorship of the book of James? There are only four men mentioned in the New Testament with this name, which one of them wrote the book of James?

The Apostle James, The Brother of John

James, the brother of John, the son of Zebedee was one of Jesus’ disciples. He was one of those closest to Jesus, and part of an inner circle. But the dating of this letter, rules him out from being the author. In the life of the early church, James was the first of the Apostles to die. He was arrested and put to death by Herod at the beginning of the persecution of the church. (Acts 12:2)

The Apostle James, The Son of Alphaeus

There was another disciple of Jesus named James (Matthew 10:3). But little is known of his ministry following the death of the Lord. It is unlikely that he would have had the authority, or influence, within the church, to teach and speak as the author of this letter does.

James, The Younger

There is a brief mention in the New Testament of a man named ‘James the younger’.  He may have been a follower of Jesus, along with his brother Joseph. But their names are mentioned briefly, and only, to further identify their mother, Mary. She was one of the women who stood at a distance and watched the death of Jesus. (Mark 15:40)

Again, it is unlikely that James the younger, would have gained the stature to write with such authority as there is no mention of him in the life of the early church.

James the Brother of Jesus

The brothers of Jesus are named by the people of Nazareth. This was Jesus’ hometown and where His family lived, and where He was most well-known. James appears to be the eldest of Jesus’ half-brothers as his name comes first on the list.

When Jesus had finished these parables, he moved on from there. Coming to his hometown, he began teaching the people in their synagogue, and they were amazed. “Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?” they asked. “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? Aren’t all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?”

Matthew 13:53-56

It appears that Joseph, who was much older than Mary, had passed away by this time, as he is not named in the above list. As the controversy over Jesus’ ministry grew His family became concerned for Him. They travelled from Nazareth to Capernaum where Jesus was based and wanted to intervene and take charge of Him. (Mark 3:20-21)

Traditionally in a family crisis, with no father, the eldest brother would take the lead. It seems that during Jesus’ lifetime, His brothers, including James, did not believe or understand His mission.

“But when the Jewish Festival of Tabernacles was near, Jesus’ brothers said to him, “Leave Galilee and go to Judea, so that your disciples there may see the works you do. No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.” For even his own brothers did not believe in him.”

John 7:2-5

After Jesus’ death, and His resurrection, His brothers are mentioned as being included in the Jerusalem prayer meetings. This was the gathering of Jesus’ followers who were waiting for the promised gift of the Holy Spirit.

They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.

Acts 1:14

Jesus appeared to many of these believers, including James (1 Corinthians 15:7). James goes on to became a well-known and respected figure in the Jerusalem church. He was regarded as a pillar of the early church and as a leader of the elders. He was the elder that Paul met on his first trip to Jerusalem following his conversion. (Galatians 1:19 Bible Gateway)

James spoke, with authority, in support of the mission to the Gentiles at the Council of Jerusalem in Acts chapter 15. His decision was acted upon by the whole church and brought encouragement to the new Gentile believers.

“The whole assembly became silent as they listened to Barnabas and Paul telling them about the signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles through them. When they finished, James spoke up. “Brothers,” he said, “listen to me….. it is my judgement, therefore that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.”

Acts 15:12-13, 19

Who Wrote The Book of James In The New Testament?

A picture of an open Bible on a table alongside a coffee cup, with the text 'Who wrote the Book of James A Guide to Christian Living' and a quote from James 1 v17.
Who Wrote The Book of James A Guide To Christian Living?

There is consensus among Biblical scholars as to who wrote the book of James. Mainly because there is only one real candidate, and that is James, the half-brother of Jesus, the elder and leader of the church in Jerusalem.

The Background To Who Wrote The Book of James

The question of who wrote the Book of James arises because the author does not lay claim to any church title or family relationship. He describes himself simply as, “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.” This declaration in the first verse of the first chapter reveals the servant-heart of the author.

The book of James is predominantly a letter to Jewish Christians. Many believers had fled Jerusalem, as persecution increased and spread throughout Judea. James writes to encourage and strengthen the faith of these scattered believers through uncertain times.

“To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings.” James 1:1

The questions of who wrote the Book of James and when was it written are answered subtly by the style and the content of the letter. It appears to be one of the earliest New Testament letters reflecting a simple, and yet undeveloped church structure of elders and teachers.

There is no mention of any controversy and appears to have been written before the spread of the gospel to the Gentiles. The author has a connection with these dispersed brothers and sisters in Christ and writes with a pastoral heart.

A Guide To Christian Living  – What Is The Main Message of James?

The main message of the Book of James is one of encouragement to develop an enduring faith. The author recognizes and acknowledges that life can be tough. After all the reason he writes is because persecution had dispersed the church.

Our faith will be tested through times of trouble, and difficulties, as we live in a fallen world. But we are encouraged to seek wisdom from God, and the perfection of our faith through the trials. An enduring and mature faith comes not through times of blessing but by learning to trust in God when we feel overwhelmed.

A pale yellow background with a border of sunflowers at the top and bottom of the page and a quote from James 1:4 NRSV 'Let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing...'
James 1:4 NRSV Quote on enduring faith

There is plenty of practical advice in this letter with the call to have an active faith. Even in times of hardship, there will be opportunities to reach out and show the love of God to others. The teaching by James often mirrors Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount. The focus is on humility and service being true kingdom values.

There is advice on controlling the attacks on our faith. With the reminder that there is power in our words and godly wisdom is required to recognize and withstand attack. Perseverance through difficulties produces a mature and enduring faith that bears much fruit.

Some of James’ final words to these scattered brothers and sisters in Christ are to stand firm in faith and wait on the Lord. He ends the letter with the greatest encouragement we could ever receive – the promise of forgiveness for every wanderer who returns to the Lord!

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