Understanding the Epistle of James I

The New Testament part of the Bible, mentioned a few people by the name James and there is also an Epistle of James written by one of the mentioned James. Our remit in this piece, is to make known to us who the writer of this Epistle is in clear terms, and also to understand who the Epistle was directed or addressed to, coupled with the circumstances surrounding the writer.

This Epistle was not written by any of James mentioned among the twelve disciples…This James was the stepbrother of our Lord Jesus Christ. There was James the son of Zebedee who was among the disciples and who was killed by Herod in Acts 12:1-2.

The first mention of this James in the New Testament was when the book of Matthew mentioned that Jesus had brothers and sisters. In today’s language, we would refer to them as His stepbrothers and sisters. This is because Joseph was the father of the brothers and sisters and God was the father of Jesus, while they shared the same mother. Matthew 13:65; Mark 6:3. Joseph, Judas, Simon and James were the names of His step-brothers.

Again, at the Marriage that took place at Cana of Galilee where Jesus turned water to wine, present at the wedding was His mother, His brothers, sisters and the disciples. It was written of the disciples that they believed in Him but nothing of such was said about His stepbrothers and sisters. They never believed in Him or the message He propagated.

At a point when Jesus entered a house, many people followed Him because of the miracles they saw performed through Him; the crowds were so great that things were getting out of hand, such that Jesus and His disciples were not able to eat. His family was embarrassed by what He was doing and the attention He attracted. What we read afterwards was that His brother and members of His family said He was out of His mind, translated as being crazy.

We also discovered that at a time, His mother, stepbrothers and sisters called for Him in the crowd and His response was, “who is my mother and who are my brothers?”…He looked around and said that those who do the Will of God are His brothers and mother. They did not believe in Him and they were never His followers – they took offence at His statement.

Jesus said a prophet is without honour in his country, even amongst his family and home. His step-brothers were nowhere when it came to trusting and believing in Him.

During the feast of tabernacles, His brothers being sarcastic told Him to travel to Judea thinking He wanted to become a public figure but His response was that His time had not yet come. They believed He did miracles but never became His follower – John 7: 6 -10.

The turnaround was not until Jesus died and was raised from the dead. We read that on that very good morning that Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to where Jesus was buried, obviously they were not expecting Him to be alive or raised from the dead but on getting there an angel appeared to them. The Angel told them Jesus had been raised from the dead and that they should spread the news to His disciples. They rushed off with joy only to find out Jesus was going to appear to them. When they saw Him, they worshipped Him and He said, “Don’t be afraid! Go tell my BROTHERS to leave for Galilee, and they will see me there.”

Apostle Paul made it clearer when he listed the people that saw Jesus when He was raised from the dead as witnesses. He listed Peter, the disciples, the more than 500 brothers, he mentioned JAMES, his stepbrother and then to Paul. His brothers believed and became a follower of Jesus. The brothers were also present at the Upper Room when He gave the instructions for the disciples to wait at Jerusalem for the empowerment of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:12 – 14) after which JAMES became a prominent and important person.

His name was mentioned in Acts 12: 17 when Peter was miraculously released from prison and there was an instruction on how Jesus had appeared to him in prison, got him released and told him to tell JAMES, His step-brother.

The great Apostle Paul mentioned his name (James) as one of those he saw at Jerusalem when they had the conflict about Faith and Works. It was JAMES who gave the decision about how the Gospel should expand to the Gentile not mixing Faith and Works, for example one could be saved with circumcision. Jerusalem had the same problem. Acts 15

He was martyred by being stoned to death!

“And inasmuch as we had broken all God’s laws, and did not wish to own it, we hated the law itself, we kicked against it, and tried to persuade ourselves that it was the root of the offence, instead of our own willful hearts being the source of the evil. Even Moses could not carry those tablets in his hand without breaking them, nor can I do any better than he did.” – Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

The question is when was this Epistle written? Was it before the debate at the Jerusalem council or after? Was James a legalist? Does Faith really depend on our works?

Keep it right here and be refreshed!



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