The life and times of old camel knees, the Apostle James


There are few books quite like James in the entire Bible.  It is a hard hitting, direct and to the point book as well as encouraging and offering hope for the future.  James is a respected leader of the church of Jerusalem and he wants to encourage, challenge, and edify those persecuted Jewish Christians that have been dispersed.  Maintaining the tradition of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Job, James probes the piety and devotion of believers with sharp, to the point observations about hypocrisy, while offering maxims and principles about matters of faith and Christian lifestyle.[1]


In evaluating a book, one is immediately drawn to determining the background of the author.  Who is he?  What is his background and how does it influence his writings?  What is his personal relationship to the storyline?  What is his perspective, biases, audience, etc.?  In knowing these things, one can gain a much richer and comprehensive understanding of the story or dialogue of a book.  In evaluating the authorship of the book of James, one begins to ask these same questions.  Who is James?  Which James is he in the New Testament or is the letter pseudonymous?  What is his background and why did he write the letter?  What is his personal relationship to the storyline?

In opening the book of James, one begins to look for clues on identifying the author.  Upon initial review, one is not given a lot of clear evidence from the book of James itself of the particular author.  In James 1:1, all that is stated about the author is “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ  . . . Greetings.”  But after gaining clues throughout the New Testament, one can begin to piece together a picture of who, this James really is and after much study a clear picture seems to develop.  This writer has found that after evaluating much evidence that James, the half-brother of Jesus, is the author of the book of James.

There is much that goes into determining who presents the best evidence as to authorship.  First, there are four James mentioned in the New Testament account.[2]  1) James, son of Zebedee, brother of John, one of the Twelve (see, e.g., Mark 1:19; 5:37; 9:2; 10:35; 14:33); 2) James the son of Alphaeus, also one of the Twelve (see Mark 3:18; he may be the same as “James the younger” [Mark 15:40] whose mother named Mary evidently reappears in Mark 16:1 as “mother of James”)[3]; 3) James the brother of Judas by whom the letter of Jude claims to have been written (Luke 6:16; Acts 1:13; Jude 1); 4) James, “the Lord’s brother” (Gal. 1:19), who plays a leading role in the early Jerusalem church (see Acts 12:17; 15:13; 21:18) and became a follower only after the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:7 and John 7:5).

In determining who this author might be, one first must discount the other James who could not be the author.  James, son of Zebedee, brother of John, part of Jesus “inner circle” as well as given a prominent role as one of the Twelve would have been recognized but his martyrdom in A.D. 44 (see Acts 12:2) is probably too early to place him as the author.  James the father of Judas was only mentioned in Acts 1:13 and Luke 6:16 to make distinction between this particular Judas and Judas Iscariot.  James the son of Alphaeus is too obscure to be considered because he was not authoritative enough to have written letters to Christians based on his name alone.[4]  The final candidate is James, “the Lord’s brother,” who was influential and well-known in the early church.  The simple identification of the author in James 1:1 seems to signify a leader who was so well known to the early churches that he needed no further introduction.[5]

There are several corroborated reasons why James, “the Lord’s brother,” in all likelihood wrote the book of James.  First, the similarities to the wording of the speech given by James (Acts 15:13-21) at the Apostolic Council and the letter sent out by him to the Gentiles in northern Syria and southern Asia Minor (Acts 15:23-29).[6]  Second, the circumstances reflected in the letter fit the date and situation that James, “the Lord’s brother” or James of Jerusalem would be writing.  The letter is written to Jewish Christians who have been dispersed because of persecution (Acts 11:19) and this would fit well with James of Jerusalem because he was a leader in the Jerusalem church.  Acting as a “pastor,” James would want to encourage them in dispersion and in persecution.

Since the book has been written, there have been scholars over the centuries attempt to deny that James of Jerusalem was the author of the book of James.  There are countless arguments against James of Jerusalem but these are the prominent ones: 1) if the letter had been written by the brother of Jesus, he certainly would have mentioned that physical relationship with the Lord in the letter somewhere; 2) the nature of the Greek and its cultural background; 3) the letter’s approach to the Torah; 4) relationship between Paul and James, especially in regard to justification.[7]

There is little evidence that James’ physical relationship to Jesus played into his position as leader of the Jerusalem church.  In Acts, where James is listed as a prominent leader in the church at Jerusalem, his physical relationship to Jesus is not mentioned.  The lack of acknowledgment of his relationship with Christ actually makes a strong argument for it not being pseudepigraphical.  During Jesus earthly ministry, His family separated themselves from Him and He said His “true family” were those who do the will of God (Mark 3:31-34).

Although the Greek in James is more polished and closer to the “higher koine” than most of the New Testament Greek, the Greek of James is far from literary Greek.[8]  The words used are words that most ordinary educated person of the time would know.  For James to have been a leader in the Jerusalem church, he would have had some education to hold a higher position.  Research over the last thirty years has shown that Palestine was thoroughly Hellenized with regard to the language and there is no reason that someone who grew up in Galilee and wrote from Jerusalem should not be able to write this book.[9]

Some argue that the letter’s “liberal” understanding of the Torah would then discount James of Jerusalem from being the writer.  The book emphasizes an approach that downplays the ritual elements of the law in favor of its ethical demands.[10]  James was known for his loyalty to the Torah and to Judaism (see Acts 21:20-25; Gal. 2:11-13).

But the Letter of James clearly reflects the teachings of Jesus and He did not emphasized the ethical aspects of torah so as to dismiss the ritual element of the torah.  Nothing in James implies that he insisted on obedience to these ethical commands at the expense of observance of the ritual law.  James introduces only topics that were matters of concern for the people to whom he was writing.[11]

Finally, the fourth reason many scholars deny that James of Jerusalem wrote the letter is they argue that James and Paul were in direct contradiction with each other over justification and this could not be so because James had ample opportunity (Acts 15; 21:18-25) to learn the authentic Pauline view of justification.[12]  But it can be argued that the Letter of James was written before James had any contact with Paul before 48 A.D. and all he would know about Paul’s “justification by faith alone” was indirectly and possibly perverted.


If one is to assume that James, the brother of Jesus was the author, the book of James must have been written before James suffered a martyr’s death in 62 A.D.  It was probably written from Jerusalem because that was the home of James and he was a leader in the Jerusalem church.  If James wrote the letter, then the composition would be important evidence for Jewish Christianity in Palestine before the year 62 A.D.[13]  Some scholars claim that this letter was written near 62 A.D. because of the similarities to 1 Peter due to the worldliness but these teachings were traditional stock among early Christian leaders as well as other Jewish writings of the time.  Others point to an earlier date in the area of the middle 40’s due to the probable relationship between James’ teaching on justification in chapter of 2 and Paul’s teaching on the same subject.[14]  James shows awareness of Paul’s emphasis on “justification by faith alone,” but does not really come to grips with what Paul meant by this doctrine.  This would mean that Paul and James had not met because if they had met, James would have been fully informed of Paul’s justification by faith alone.  Paul had been preaching in Tarsus from 36 A.D. and in Antioch from 45 A.D. and possibly had been misunderstood by the people James is writing to.  James is attacking a “perverted Pauline theology” in chapter 2.  James would have met Paul after 48 A.D.  Also an indication of an early date is the absence of any awareness of the conflict over the torah that emerged in the early church and culminated in the Apostolic Council in Acts 15 and in late 40’s A.D.  James was the leader of the assembly and he would have been well aware of  the issue relating to the torah and Gentiles after the Apostolic Council.  For these reasons, it can be concluded that the Book of James was written in the middle 40’s, just before the Apostolic Council.[15]


Arranged in sections, the entire letter falls into the following pattern:[16]

  1. Address and Greeting (1:1)
  1. Enduring Trials (1:2-19a)
    1. Trials, Wisdom, Faith (1:2-8)
    2. The Reversal of Fortunes (1:9-11)
    3. Testing: Its Source and Mischief—and Rationale (1:12-19a)
  • Applying the Word (1:19b-3:18)
    1. The Obedience of Faith (1:19b-27)
    2. Problems in the Assembly (2:1-13)
    3. Faith and Deeds—Together (2:14-26)
    4. Warning about Teachers and Tongues (3:1-12)
    5. Two Types of Wisdom (3:13-18)
  1. Witnessing to Divine Providence (4:1-5:20)
    1. Community Malaise and Its Antidote

(i) False Hopes (4:1-10)

  1. Community Problems

(ii) Godless Attitudes (4:11-17)

  1. Judgment on Rich Farmers (5:1-6)
  2. Call to Patience (5:7-11)
  3. Community Issues: Oath-taking; Reactions to Trouble, Sickness, and Sins (5:12-18)
  4. Final Words and Fraternal Admonitions (5:19-20)

James typically employs contrast in successive clauses, sentences, or groups of sentences and examples are found within 1:19, 2:5, and 4:7-8. [17]  James 1 revolves around two central themes.  The first of these is endurance of trials.[18]  This theme occurs at the beginning of the chapter, v1-2 and in v.12.  More important than this theme is the theme of spiritual wholeness or integrity.  Perseverance has as its ultimate result believers who are “mature and complete, lacking in nothing”(v.4).[19]  These verses make clear that Christianity does not offer a refuge that shelters one from the slings and arrows of adversity.[20]  Bad things happen to good people, including God’s people, and Christians will face trials.  God is forming the believer into His image.  Also, the Gospel has a leveling affect to it and at the end of the age, God will right the wrongs the rich have done to them.  Even though the world changes, God is eternal and His purposes to bless the believer and pour out His gifts and wisdom abundantly and non-discriminatory are always the same.

1:1       Some may skip the first verse of a letter but in James, it reveals a simple identity of the author and his readers, from which one can use external and internal evidence to draw conclusions about their identities.  One would not expect James to say much about the readers’ situation, since this is information they all share.[21]  The simplicity of the introduction would lead one to conclude that this letter did not have a pseudonymous author, because a pseudonymous author might have been expected to embellish.[22] The most important linkage between the opening verse and the body of the letter is the wordplay between “greetings” (charein) in this verse and “joy” (charan) in the next.[23]  The title of servant that James chose for himself is used to describe many of the Lord’s chosen.  Usually prophets in the Old Testament led the people because they were divinely chosen as servants.[24]  As argued before, what gave authority and qualifications for James to write this letter was not his physical relationship to Christ but his spiritual relationship.[25]  As other writers in the New Testament, James addresses his readers based on their status and location.  Based on Acts 11:19 and the early date of the letter, James is writing to Jewish Christians who have been “dispersed” as a result of persecution.

1:2             Beginning in verse 2, by placing trials in this position of prominence in the letter, one can conclude that James is suggesting that the tough times the believers were facing were a key reason for his writing to them.[26]  James opening section allows his readers to struggle with the paradox of “rejoicing in affliction.”[27]  The use of “my brothers” indicates the relationship of the author to the readers is a warm one and a sign of affection and esteem.  It can be argued that it was calculated to enforce the hortatory and homiletic appeal.[28]  James encourages them in that the suffering of believers is always under the providential control of God who wants only the best for his people.[29]  He is emphasizing that trials should be a reason or occasion for genuine rejoicing.  James use of “pure joy” is a good rendering of the Greek phrase pasan charan since the word pas probably suggests intensity rather than exclusivity (nothing but joy).[30]  The verb “fall into” (ðåñéðÝóçôå) makes it clear that these trials were not what the brothers would have chosen but they met them because of their loyalty to God, who permits such experiences to occur to test His people.[31]  The word “trial” (peirasmos and its verbal cognate peirazo) is key here.   Peirasmos is used in v2 and v12 while peirazo is used in v13-14.[32]   They can denote two distinct meanings in the New Testament: either an outward trial or process of “testing” or they can denote the inner enticement to sin (i.e. “temptation” or “tempt”).[33]   Here, the word means trial because the words surrounding it are used elsewhere in the New Testament when this word means “trial,” while later it will mean “temptation” in vv13-14.

1:3       In verse 3, James states that this testing of faith actually leads to endurance.  So why can believers react to trials with such an unexpected response of joy?  The reason is Christians know that God uses trials to perfect a believer’s faith and make one stronger Christians.[34]  In James, trials can result in perfection of character.  For James, maturity comes about in the Christian life as one endures, stubbornly trusting in God as the difficulties, tragedies, and problems of life are encountered.[35]  Here in verse 3, testing produces, first of all, perseverance.  The picture here is of a person successfully carrying a heavy load for a long time.[36]    The thought is that trials pose a threat to faith, but when trials are produced in the right way, they serve to test the quality of faith by producing the result of “patient endurance” (›ðïìïíÞí).[37]  The idea here is that endurance of trials like one’s muscles grow strong due to resistance.[38]  Although trials are not to be sought in a masochistic way, but they serve as a feature of the life of trust that refines and shapes believers knowledge of divine providence and God’s holy purpose.[39]

The idea of hope and expectancy of a believer’s heavenly reward plays a prominent role in how one remains steadfast.  The component of steadfastness under trial and a persistent determination to win through to the end is marked as believers yield their lives to God and remain faithful in anticipation or expectation of their reward.[40]

1:4       James says that the benefits of testing or trials only come to believers who respond to them in the right way: Christians must allow endurance to do its intended work.[41]  It does not say: “endurance makes you perfect” but rather, “let it make you perfect.”[42]  Affliction does not ensure endurance but there can be no endurance without it.  This “perfect work” that perseverance is intended to achieve is the ideal Christian character.  He is not claiming that one will be perfect but it is to be the believer’s aim and one is not to lower the bar of expectation.  Nothing less than complete moral integrity will satisfy God is who holy and righteous, completely free and set apart from sin.[43]  There is not that much of a difference between “perfect” and “complete” but the idea is that the Christian who has attained “completeness” will also be “perfect” in character.   “Perfect” (ôÝëåéïé) is obviously a key term for James, with five occurrences, because no book uses it as much as James in proportion to its length.[44]  It is used to describe a person’s character and is modeled on the divine pattern that sets the standard and inspires the believer.  Also, the perfection of James is eschatological, in that it looks ahead to its fullest maturity at the end when God’s purposes will have been achieved.[45]   The word “complete” indicates soundness and idea of wholeness, in contrast to one who is unhealthy or sick (see Acts 3:16).[46]  Therefore, when a Christian is tested and responds with confidence in God and is determined to endure, a wholeness of Christian character develops that lacks nothing in the full suit or armor of virtues that define Godly character.[47]

1:5       James now turns to wisdom and the theme of wisdom is one that is echoed

widespread throughout Old Testament and Jewish teachings.  In Proverbs 1:7, “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” and in Proverbs 2:6, “The Lord gives wisdom” for the central theme of the book of Proverbs is the importance of wisdom.  For the Jewish mind, wisdom meant practical righteousness in everyday living.[48]  Wisdom is not an individual achievement acquired by one’s own self realization, but it is a gift that comes from God, and is obtained through prayer.[49]  James continues with the idea of the perfect and in verse 5, the perfect are marked by wisdom.  Wisdom is the knowledge of how to live according to God’s ways and it only comes from above.  Wisdom is the means by which the godly can both discern and carry out the will of God.[50]  It can be argued that the wisdom for James is what Paul argues for the Holy Spirit in his writings.  The perfect ask God for wisdom and receive it because of the ability to pray with faith.[51]  Perfection is related to wisdom and it refers to a concord with God (see Col. 1:28; 4;12; 1 John 4:17-18).[52]  Wisdom is not automatic, however, but must be sought through prayer.

In addition to Proverbs and other wisdom literature, James’ seems to be influenced by the teachings of Jesus.  Verse 5 sounds very reminiscent of Jesus in Matthew 7:7a, “ask and it will be given to you” (and parallels in Matt. 18:19; 21:22).  Jesus continues in the Sermon of the Mount and says that human fathers give good things to their children; how much more, Jesus reasons, will “your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”[53]  James says that the actions of God are characterized by a giving that is “generously to all without finding fault” (Qðë§ò êár ìx “íåéäßæïíôïò) highlighting two divine attributes of generosity and graciousness.  It stands in contrast with äßøõ÷ïò, “double-minded,” and encourages his readers that God is not in two minds about His giving.[54]  “Without hesitation” stresses there are no conditions to His giving.  The generosity of God is nondiscriminatory.  His wisdom is given to all that belong to Him that ask.    The believer should have no hesitation in asking God for wisdom because He would not scold the believer for asking for all the wisdom one needs.

1:6       While in verse 5, James challenges his readers to ask God for wisdom, in verse 6, James says one must ask with the right attitude.   The fruit of the gift of wisdom is the understanding that faith is all-encompassing.[55]  This faith is an exercising of trust in the generosity and power of God.  Growth in wisdom is to understand that everything of faith is from God.[56]  Our asking of God must coincide with the singleness of intent that God gives.  James again seems to be reflecting the teachings of Jesus, who in response to His withering of the fig trees says (Matthew 21:21-22), “I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done.  If you believe you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”  Many false teachers claim that God has promised “health and wealth” to every Christian if one’s faith is strong enough based on this passage in James and in Matthew.  But neither James nor Jesus intend to give Christians a blank check, for the “whatever you ask” is clearly qualified by Scripture to include only what God has promised to give His people.[57]

The great heroes of the faith did indeed doubt but over the many years, they displayed a consistency in their faith in God.  James wants the believer to understand that God responds to the believer only when one’s lives reflect a basic consistency of purpose and intent: a spiritual integrity.[58]  The doubter is as insecure and unsteady as a boat rocked in turbulent seas.  The wave (êëýäùíé) is ever changing with wind variations and currents and never having the same texture from moment to moment.  The doubter is split in his focuses and intent and purpose.  One day he wants wisdom from God and the other he seeks the wisdom of the world.

1:7-8   Verses 7-8 more fully describes the person who is afflicted by doubt and what he will receive from the Lord.  The person plagued by doubt, which James uses to hallmark unbelief, is characterized by being “double-minded” (äßøõ÷ïò).[59]  For James, the opposite of love of God is being double-minded, loving the world.  In the imagery of the Bible, they are of two hearts, two wills, and try to walk along two separate ways.[60]  The word, “double-minded” (äßøõ÷ïò), is literally translated “double-souled” and this is the first time this word has been used in Greek literature.[61]  James uses it again in ch 4:8 and he probably coined the word to emphasize the need for the believer to be whole-hearted and consistent in one’s faith in God.  The concept of whole-hearted faith has been used throughout the Old Testament (pursue God with a “whole heart” Psalm 119:2) as well as with Jesus quoting Deuteronomy 6:5, “love the Lord you God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”  James concludes the verse with another negative characterization of the doubter, “unstable” (PêáôÜóôáôïò).  This word is only found in James and in Isaiah 54:11 in the LXX, where it refers to the effects of a violent storm.[62]     This refers to a basic division in the soul that leads one to think, speak, and act that contradicts one’s claim to belonging to God.

1:9       James teaches about worldly wealth and riches and an eschatological reversal of status experienced by those in fellowship with Jesus.  This theme of the rich and poor in James’ community will reappear throughout the book of James.  Perhaps James is introducing the topic of wealth as a test of true faith and not to trust in their wealth, continuing this discussion of faith in ch1:2-4.  The man in the humblest (ôáðåéí’ò) condition should boast (another way to “consider it pure joy” of v2) in the high position that will be his in the future with God.  James was encouraging those in low standing as believers to boast or to “take pride” in their future exaltation.  The brother here in verse 9 describes a man or woman who belongs to the family of God through faith in Christ.[63]  His description of this brother is one who is of little significance in the world’s evaluation, possibly oppressed, and often the word is paired with “orphan” or “widow.”[64]  Since the contrast in this context is between “humble” and “rich” (v10), James is clearly using the word to describe the believer’s socioeconomic situation.  If James was addressing Jewish Christians that have been dispersed from Jerusalem, then most of them would probably be facing tough financial situations abroad.  James point is that believers must look beyond the world’s evaluation to understand who they are in God’s perspective and His view of them.[65]

1:10-11     James begins verse 10 with clear imagery of Isaiah 40 and the “grass withers, the flower fades . . .”  As the grass pass away, so do the rich man.  The flower is doomed because of the heat that accompanies the rising sun.  êáýóùíé can mean either “searing heat” or “scorching wind.”[66]  James relentlessly connects the fate of the rich man with the fate of the flower.  One day they can be flourishing and the next day they are gone.

The question asked by many commentators is who is the rich man and is he a believer or an unbeliever?    It is said that the rich man could be a Christian because grammatically “the brother” (¿ Päåëö’ò ) in v9 can be taken to govern “the rich man” (¿

ðëïýóéïò).[67]  Furthermore, the verb in v9 (Êáõ÷Üóèù) governs v10a, thus leaving the continued thought: “but the rich man must boast in his lowly estate.”  This meaning that the Christian rich man is instructed to take no pride in his wealth and to help others.  Regardless of whether the rich man is a Christian or not, the meaning of these verses is clear; riches are worthless in the face of death and judgment.

Other scholars, however, maintain that the rich man is to be taken as an unbeliever.  They argue that the “brother” does not govern both the “poor” and “rich.”  They say that the rich man has had his day; all he can expect from the future is humiliation.[68]  Whenever James speaks of the rich as ðëïýóéïò, like he does in 1:10-11, there is a consistently negative message that offers no hope for the rich.[69]  In 5:1-6, the rich are guilty of greed and other sins and are promised only misery coming upon them.  James seems to expect the rich to continue in their materialism only to find themselves brought low in the end.  James seems to echo throughout his book (2:1-6; 5:1-6) the tradition that the rich represent evil oppressor.  He continues the teachings of Jesus where according to Luke, Christ pronounces a blessing on the “poor” but utters a woe upon the “rich” as well as His comparisons with the “poor man” Lazarus and the “rich man.”  Throughout the Synoptics, there is a consistent negative view of the picture of wealth and the rich (except Joseph of Arimathea).[70]   In this passage, the rich cannot be understood as Christians because throughout James, the rich are synonymous with the unrighteous or wicked.  He is seeking to encourage and to challenge the dishonored and oppressed poor to rejoice in their real exaltation in Christ.  The Christian must always evaluate themselves by spiritual and not material standards.  It can be argued that James is seeking the believer to not serve two masters (God and riches) and to continue to challenge believers to not be “double-minded.”

1:12     The idea of patience in testing and trials returns from verse 2-4, although it can be argued that the poor man is having to endure trials because of the rich man in verses 9-11.  James continues to use the virtue of  ›ðïìÝíåé “patience” by using the same vocabulary from verse 2-4 here in v12: testing, standing in time of trials, being approved and endurance to the end.[71]  Here, a person who is “blessed” may not be “happy” at all, but one will be a recipient of God’s favor if one remains faithful.  Earlier James encouraged believers to respond to trials with joy because such testing would produce endurance.  Now, he is actually promising a reward for those who successfully endure trails by remaining firm.[72]  The use of ›ðïìÝíåé “patience” in 1:2-8, is nuanced differently in 1:12-15.  In 1:2-8 testings are to be endured with fortitude or patience; in 1:12-15, the temptations are to be resisted with a steadfast resolution.[73]  The óôÝöáíïí  “crown” that offers life is an eschatological promise of reward.  The subject matter is life and living in the eschatological joy of the new age that God will bring in.[74]  After “crown” (óôÝöáíïí), the genitive ôyò æùyò is best taken as genitive of content; “life” belongs to the world of victory enjoyed by those who win through in their battle with temptation (ðåéñáóìüí) to emerge as victors.[75]  That crown of life is not some far-off destination, not some remote prize, not a reward for good talk but it is a goal already reached, a victory long since won, a gift freely offered.[76]  God wants Christians to endure trials faithfully so that believers will receive the reward God has for them.  As Mitton observes, “the rewards are of a kind that only a true Christian would appreciate.”[77]

1:13     James makes the transition from testing to temptation in verse 13.   The Greek work for “test” in v12,  ðåéñáóìüí, is the same word that is translated “tempt” in v.13-14 and is now used to make the transition from testing to temptation.[78]   For every trial brings temptation so his concern is for the believer to resist the temptation that comes along with the trial.  Although God tested His servants like Abraham, Israel and others to strengthen their faith, God never seeks to induce sin and destroy their faith.[79]   Despite the fact that the same Greek root (peira—) is used for both the outer trial and the inner temptation, it is crucial to distinguish them.  God is unable to be tempted by evil and this is shown by the rare and difficult use of the word Pðåßñáóôüò, which is a passive verbal adjective (participle) with the meaning “ought not to be tested.” This would tie in well with the Old Testament condemnation of Israel for testing God in the wilderness.[80]  God is not directly responsible for the sending of temptation and God did not bring about the situations the readers of James were experiencing.  God did not engineer James’ readers’ misery nor does He abandon them in it.

      1:14     In verse 14, James attributes temptation to each person’s evil desires.  Desire (dðéèõìßáò) can have a neutral meaning in the New Testament (cf. Luke 22:15; Phil. 1:23), but the context here makes it clear that James uses it with its more typical New Testament meaning: fleshly, illicit desire.  Desires here is broader than just a sexual connotation, rather it includes any human longing for what God has prohibited.[81]  Desire is personified as a metaphor and a force that draws out a victim by luring him, as fish are lured and baited.  The bait on the fisherman’s hook would entice the fish; and once hooked, the fish would be dragged away.  The point of emphasis is to fasten moral responsibility on the person.[82]

1:15     James now shifts metaphors to describe the destruction that desire can wreak in the spiritual life.  The image of a parasite is brought to mind where the parasite conceives more parasites for destruction.  Sin engenders death and the full growth of sin issues in the slaying of the host.[83]  Aided by the fact that the underlying Greek word is feminine, James pictures desire as conceiving and giving birth to sin.  Desire (dðéèõìßá) is understood as a disordered passion is here personified, and James uses the feminine gender of the noun to develop a horrible sequence of conception, birth and death.  In contrast in v17-18, God is shown in terms of completeness and wholeness.  One needs to be constantly on the guard to protect against temptation and if one does not resist, then sin is conceived.  Temptation is not sinful, even Jesus was tempted, but the way one resists temptation is key.  Christian maturity is not indicated by the infrequency of temptation but by the infrequency of succumbing to temptation.  This image of temptation is similar to the temptress in Proverbs.  The temptress in Proverbs leads her guests into the depths of Sheol (Prov. 9:18), is contrasted with wisdom, who gives life to those who embrace her (Prov. 8:35).[84]  James wants to warn believers of the danger of giving in to temptation in the midst of trials.

1:16           Verse 16 is a transition verse between verses 13-15 and 17-18.  James concludes his words about relativism in temptation with an urgent, flashing caution light: “Don’t be deceived.”[85]  James uses the imperative or command in (Ìx ðëáíOóèå) “do not be deceived” urging his readers to not be lead astray.  God is not the tempter that leads to death, rather He is the giver of good gifts to His children.  Believers must be on their guard because the attack of the enemy is great and the days are evil.  James continues with his terms of affection for his readers with “my beloved brethren.”  This identifies a new section because James uses the vocative “brothers” (Päåëöïß) new sections (1:2, 9, 19; 2:1, 5, 14; 3:1, 11; 4:11; 5:7, 12, 19).[86]

1:17-18     Verses 17-18 form a unit that is very common in James.  This unit (v17-18) ties together some themes from this section, verse 1-18.  First, this unit brings us back to the theme of singleness and integrity of God, especially His giving that is found in verse 5.  Second, this theme in turn provides a contrast with v13-15: God does not tempt to evil; he gives good gifts.  And third, the mention of the “word” of God in v18 introduces the theme that will dominate vv.19-27.[87]  “Every good and perfect gift” is literally translated “every good giving and every perfect gift.”  Moo argues that the repetition here formed an imperfect hexameter, which is a popular poetic device among the Greeks that is a series of words whose syllables formed six rhythmical sections.[88]  There is no difference between the two Greek words äüóéò and äþñçìá (translated “gifts”).  The two adjectives Pãáèx and ôÝëåéïí (“good” and “perfect”) appear to be no different, except the perfect touches on a key motif from v.4.  In an interesting way in this unit, James contrasts vv13-15 “God does not tempt to evil,” with the origin of good gifts. Instead of saying “God gives only good and perfect gifts,” or at least a statement about God, James points at the origin of good gifts and he may he using a literary phrase they already know. [89]   The Greek words translated “variation” and “turning” often refer to astronomical phenomena in the ancient world, and the earlier reference to God as “the Father of lights” makes it clear that this is probably James intention.[90] The point is God does not change like the heavens and nature do, He is consistent and eternal in His nature, form, gifts, love, etc.  Indeed, the integrity and undividedness of God, in contrast to the instability and duality of man (vv7-8), is a key motif of the letter as a whole.[91]

James returns to the image of birth in verse 18, instead this time it is of God and not of sin and death (v.15).  The syntax in verse 18 suggests that this “word” (ëüãv) is the instrument through which God brings people to life.  The idea is of redemption and James continues with this idea in v21.  “The implants word able to save your souls” leads one to believe that James is saying that God’s grace has been extended through the gospel to people so to bring into existence a foretaste of a redemptive plan of God for all creation.[92]


James wrote this letter to those in persecution and those who were struggling with justification.  What did it mean to them and what does faith really mean?  He answers those questions and shows his readers an ethical perspective that will guide one in their faith in Christ.

James says that trials are predictable and as believers, one will face two types of trials: correction and perfection.  For correction, they come when one is out of the will of God and allows one to correct their path.  For perfection, are when one is in the will of God and He is perfecting one’s faith.[93]  These trials are transitional and that they are forming one into the image of Christ if one keeps their faith and focus on Christ.  Jesus looked beyond His sufferings and Hebrews 12:2 says, “that for the joy set before Him, He endured the cross.”  There is an eschatological perspective in James and brings one encouragement and hope in how the tables will be turned at the end.  One is to stand fast when faced with trials and endure because of perseverance and the perfect Godly character Christ is perfecting in the believer.  Trials also bring the believer to prayer.  When one lacks wisdom, he is called to ask God through prayer for that wisdom.  He gives the believer wisdom in discerning how to make it through trials and how to walk in the way of the Lord through them.

James encourages the believers who are struggling with being persecuted by the rich that the rich will fade away one day.  There is again an eschatological hope that God will right the wrongs at the end of the age.  The poor are called to take pride in their high position in Christ.  The Gospel has a leveling affect.

James challenges the believers to flee temptation and its enticements before once you conceive of its sin, it will lead to death.  James uses poignant metaphors to show how the enticement of sin will gestate and eventually lead to death.  Later he challenges his readers of the Word for its redeeming and salvation values.  James is a very powerful book that leads one to have a singleness of intent and remain focused on Christ through the trials of life as well as the enticements and temptations.  The believer’s focus need to be singular of intent because God’s focus is singular in its intent to bless the believers.























[1] Harold S. Songer, “Introduction to James,” Review and Expositor 83 (Summer 1996): 355.



[2] D.A. Carson, Douglas Moo, and Leon Morris, An Introduction to the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House,1992),  410.

[3] Ralph Martin, Word Biblical Commentary: James, vol.48 (Waco, Tx: Word Books, 1988),  xxxi.

[4] Douglas Moo, The Letter of James  (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2000),  9.

[5] Kurt A. Richardson, The New American Commentary: James, vol.36 (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1997), 39.

[6] Ibid., 10.

[7] Moo, 12-13.

[8]  Ibid., 14.

[9]  Luke Timothy Johnson, “The Letter of James,” New Interpreter’s Commentary,183

[10] Moo, 15

[11] Ibid., 14.

[12] Moo, 18-19

[13] Johnson, 182.

[14] Moo, 25.

[15] Moo, 26.

[16] Martin, ciii-civ.

[17] George Stulac, “Who are ‘the rich’ in James?,” Presbyterian , Fall 1990, 95.

[18] Moo, 52.

[19] Ibid.

[20] David E. Garland, “Severe Trials, Good Gifts, and Pure Religion,” Review and Expositor 83 (Summer 1996): 384.

[21] Moo, 47.

[22]  Sophie Laws, “Epistle of James,” The Anchor Bible Dictionary (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 622.

[23] Richardson, 52.

[24] Ibid., 53.

[25] Moo, 48.

[26] P. Davids, The Epistle of James (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982), 35-37.

[27] Martin, 14.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Moo, 53.

[30] Moo, 53

[31] Martin, 15.

[32] Moo, 53.

[33] Ibid.

[34] Idid., 54.

[35] Garland, 385.

[36] Moo, 55.

[37] Martin, 15.

[38] R.C. Trench, Synonyms of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1973), 195-198.

[39] Martin, 15.

[40] Ibid., 16.

[41] Moo, 55.

[42] Martin Dibelius, James, rev. H. Greeven, trans. by M.A. Williams, Hermeneia (Philadelphia” Fortress, 1976), 74.

[43] Moo, 56.

[44] Davids, 69.

[45] Martin, 17.

[46] Moo, 56.

[47] Ibid.

[48] Martin, 17.

[49] Patrick J. Hartin, “Call to be Perfect through Sufferings (James 1, 2-4)” Grammaire de L’Hebreu Biblique (1997), 480.

[50] Moo, 57.

[51] Garland, 387.

[52] Ibid.

[53] Moo, 58.

[54] Martin, 18.

[55] Richardson, 65.

[56] Richardson, 66.

[57] Moo, 60.

[58] Ibid., 61.

[59] Martin, 20.

[60] Garland, 389.

[61] Moo, 62.

[62] Ibid., 63.

[63] Moo, 64.

[64] Ibid.

[65] Ibid., 65.

[66] Martin, 27.

[67] Ibid., 25.

[68] Martin, 25.

[69] Stulac, 96.

[70] Ibid., 99.

[71] Martin, 30.

[72] Moo, 69.

[73] J.H. Ropes, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle of St. James (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1916), 150.

[74] Martin, 33.

[75] Ibid.

[76] William Springfellow, “Temptation: Pursuit by the power of death,” Sojourners 15 (April 1986): 38.

[77] C. L. Mitton, The Epistle of James  (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1966), 44.

[78] Moo, 72.

[79] Ibid., 73.

[80] Davids, 82-83

[81] Moo, 74.

[82] Martin, 36.

[83] Richardson, 83.

[84] Moo, 76.

[85] O.S. Hawkins, “Preaching from the Book of James,” Southwestern Journal of Theology, Fall 2000, 62.

[86]  Moo, 76.

[87]  Ibid.

[88]  Ibid., 77.

[89]  Ibid., 78.

[90]  Moo, 78.

[91]  Ibid.

[92]  Ibid., 80.

[93] Hawkins, 58.


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