The Rest of the Story –

James, Brother of the Lord

Acts 15:13-32
James 1:1,21-27
James 2:1-13
James 2:14-26
James 4:1-12

More of The Rest of the Story

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For comments on Paul, see An Overview of Paul's Letters. Meantime, we’re going on with our study of other important figures in the early Church.

Acts 15:13-32 (4/8/13)

A second giant in the very early Church was James, the brother of the Lord (Matthew 13:55, Galatians 1:19). In early Christian writings outside the Bible, James is also called “James the Just.” He was the leader of the church in Jerusalem, as shown by today’s passage. When he said, here’s what we’re going to do, that’s what they did.

Pay special attention to a couple of points in James’s letter. First, verse 23 includes the word chairain greetings. The only other letter in the New Testament that has this word in the greeting is the epistle of James. Second, James goes straight to the center of the Law in his prohibitions for the Gentiles: idolatry, sexual immorality, blood, and strangled animals, which still contain the blood. (The life is in the blood, per Genesis 9:4 and Leviticus 17:11, and the life belongs to God.) He says that the Gentiles will understand – because the Law of Moses is preached in synagogues everywhere – that even though they are excused from circumcision and the Jewish dietary restrictions, these four laws non-negotiable.

James’s decision was put into writing, and Paul and Barnabas were sent about their business, with two witnesses from the church in Jerusalem to vouch for them.

James 1:1, 21-27 (4/9/13)

James mentions Jesus only twice in his letter, once in the vs. 1:1, and once in vs. 2:1. Although some scholars have questioned as a result whether James is an authentic Christian letter, John Wesley says, “It might have seemed, if he mentioned him often, that he did it out of vanity, as being the brother of the Lord.” As usual, I agree with Wesley. Everybody knew who James was, and he was writing to Christians, not to people outside the Church. He just gave them the message without any boastful name-dropping.

The other thing that convinces me of its authenticity is that the words of Jesus’ teachings come through more clearly in James than in any other letter, in my opinion:
Not only did everybody know who James was, they also knew he learned this stuff from Jesus.

James 2:1-13 (4/10/13)

I saw a headline the other day in the paper that says Albuquerque is on a top ten list – for worst-dressed cities. The people who made the list were apparently put off by the fact that when you go to a nice restaurant in Albuquerque, you are as likely to see tee shirts as silk shirts. Sorry, but I can’t get excited about that.

As it turns out, neither could James.

James 2:14-26 (4/11/13)

Great men are the fuel for great controversies, and today we read what is undoubtedly the most controversial passage in the book of James. If you want to read a good, modern commentary on James, you can’t do better than the one by Zane Hodges.

The first thing you must know is that “that” or “such” in not present in the Greek in vs. 14! Translators put it in because they don’t know what to make of the idea that faith without works cannot save. We know from the Gospels that faith in Jesus Christ is exactly what does save us eternally, so they apparently think that James must be talking about something else. But even when we are hazy on what James means, we shouldn’t go around changing what he says. Furthermore, the form of the question in Greek is, “Faith can’t save him, can it?” It expects the answer, “No.”

Then there’s the problem of who is saying what in vss. 18 and following. James is using a standard Greek format called the “diatribe,” which was sort of the FAQ of its day. One person appears to ask, and another person appears to answer, but I can tell you (having written FAQs myself) that often the writer is not really either person. In this particular diatribe, vss. 18 and 19 are the question asked by Person 1, no matter how your translation has it punctuated! We know this because Person 1 is introduced by “But someone will say,” and Person 2 is introduced as the one who says, “you foolish person,” referring to Person 1, and these two introductions are fairly standard for the diatribe.

James (speaking as James) argues beginning in vs. 24 that both faith and works are essential, just as both body and spirit are critical. The spirit puts the life into the body; the works put life into the faith. Therefore, faith without works is dead.

James 4:1-12 (4/12/13)

Sometimes it’s difficult to remember that James is writing to Christians. Christians never quarrel and fight! Christians never covet! Christians never speak evil against one another! Well, yes, all too often they do, and James knows that. That’s why he’s telling us to knock it off, purify our hearts, and humble ourselves before the Lord. James is a great believer in drawing closer to God by giving up sinful behavior.

More of The Rest of the Story
Week 1. Beginning of Life As We Know It
Week 1. More on the Beginning of Life As We Know It
Week 2. God Builds a Nation – Abraham … But Not Lot
Week 2. God Builds a Nation – Isaac…But not Ishmael or the sons of Keturah
Week 2. God Builds a Nation – Jacob…But not Esau
Week 3. Joseph Preserves Two Nations
Week 4. Deliverance
Week 4. More on Deliverance
Week 5. New Commands and a New Covenant
Week 6. Wandering
Week 6. More on the Wandering
Week 7. The Battle Begins
Week 8. A Few Good Men...and Women
Week 9. The Faith of a Foreign Woman
Week 10. Standing Tall, Falling Hard
Week 11. From Shepherd to King
Week 12. The Trials of a King
Week 13. The King Who Had It All
Week 14. A Kingdom Torn in Two
Weeks 15 and 16. God's Messengers and The Beginning of the End
Week 17. The Kingdoms' Fall
Jeremiah, Prophet of the Exile
Story 19. The Return Home
Apocalyptic writings in the Old Testament
Story 21. Rebuilding the Walls
Story 22. The Birth of the King
Story 23. Jesus’ Ministry Begins
Story 24. No Ordinary Man
Story 25. Jesus, the Son of God
Story 26. The Hour of Darkness
Story 27. The Resurrection
Story 28. New Beginnings
James, Brother of the Lord
John and Jude
Story 31. The End of Time

Copyright 2013 by Regina L. Hunter. All rights reserved. This page has been prepared for the web site by RPB.

Opinions expressed on this page are solely those of the author, Regina Hunter, and may or may not be shared by the sponsors or the Bible-study participants.  Thanks to the Holy Spirit for any useful ideas presented here, and thanks to all the readers for their support and enthusiasm.  All errors are, of course, the sole responsibility of the author.

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