Wednesday, November 18, 2020
Letters of Light
Introduction to the Letter of James
We know that two Apostle were named James. So, which one wrote this letter? Neither. Students of Scripture give two reason for this conclusion: The content of the letter reflects a level of development of the Christian community that suggests that is was composed after the time of the Apostles. And the Greek (grammar, sentence structure, etc) of the letter is among the best in the New Testament, suggesting it was not written by an Aramaic-speaking fisherman. Once more, the important point is, no matter who wrote it, it is accepted by the believing Christian community as the Word of God. Conjectures on when the letter was written vary between 70 and 100 AD.
Like Hebrews, James reads more like a moral admonition than a letter. The “salutation” is not specific: “to the twelve tribes in the dispersion.” What’s that all about? It indicates that it was written for Christians of Jewish origin who were “dispersed” (ie not living in Palestine).
Although it is moralistic in tone, James is not an ethics lecture. It is a document of faith, outlining the way a person of faith is called to live. The letter draws on Old Testament quotes. While it doesn’t mention any specific events from the life of Jesus, it is clearly founded on the message of Jesus. The morals/ethics of James are not preceded by lengthy discussions of doctrine (teaching) as is the case with many of Paul’s letters. This is another indication that it was written for a community that was already well-established in Christian teaching.
While James addresses “issues” (eg pride, slander, hypocrisy), it does not, like some of Paul’s letters, address specific, local issues (eg factions 1 Corinthians 1, 10-18) but general subjects appropriate for all believers.
Something to consider:
As we continue to pray and study our way through the letters of the New Testament, remember, the emphasis is on prayer- our relationship with the God Who speaks in the Scriptures. The “technical” stuff (who wrote it, dates, style, etc.) are meant to assist us getting a feel for what was going on in the lives of Christians when the letters were written so we can connect Gods Word with what’s going on in our lives today.
We’ll work our way slowly through the Letter of James. Read James, chapter 1.