- Type— a general letter, addressed to believers (as opposed to a letter written to a specific person—eg., Titus)
- Writer— “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ”
There are 4 individuals with the name “James” in the NT. The two most likely candidates for authorship are:
- James— the son of Zebedee, the brother of John (Matt. 4:21). Acts 12:1-2, however, indicates that this James was martyred. His death makes him an unlikely author.
- James— the brother of Joseph, Simon and Judas, the half brothers of Jesus, the sons of Mary (Matt. 13:55, John 7:5- prior to Christ’s death and resurrection, “not even his brothers believed him.”). This James later became a pillar of the church (Gal.2:9) and speaks to address the assembly in defense of the Gospel (Acts 15:13-19). This address is of similar style to the epistle of James, making it probable that this James is the writer.
- The Writer’s description of himself- “a servant” (doulos). See Exodus 21 (Laws about Slaves). James sees himself as a bondslave of God, as in Exodus 21, who serves not of compulsion but of choice because “I love my master” and shall be his “slave forever.”
- The Writer describes himself as a servant “of God” AND “of the Lord Jesus Christ”- if James the half brother of Jesus is the author, the fact that he calls himself as the bondslave of Jesus Christ is significant, for he acknowledges that Jesus is not merely the half brother he grew up with, but the Son of God who is on equal standing with God the Father. Note the conversion of James from a skeptic (John 7:5) to a follower of Christ. Note also James’ humility—He does not use his relationship with Jesus as a half brother as the basis of his authority. He calls himself the servant of Jesus.
- The Recipient— “the twelve tribes in the Dispersion.” Who are these? The body of the letter reveals that James is writing to the believers who are scattered abroad (diaspora), as a result of the persecution during the reign of King Herod. James uses the word, “brethren,” 15 times. James gives instructions as to how these brethren are to live as they face life in the various places and circumstances where they have found themselves.
There is much to be learned in this first verse of introduction alone! Consider the writer, how he sees himself in relation to God and the Lord Jesus Christ. Consider the recipients of the letter— who they are and why they were dispersed. Introductions are important. Dig deeper!
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