The Book of James is one of the epistles in New Testament, which refers to issues of faith. This book was written by James, the author, whose personality may be debated but he is likely to be the brother of Jesus Christ, James. He conveys his vision of Christian faith in his book and attempts to avoid too exaggerated and biased view on Christianity and teaching of Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, he stresses that Christians should lead a virtuous and good life to be happy and to find salvation.
First of all, it is important to dwell upon the authorship of the Book of James. There are two James apostles of Jesus Christ but they are unlikely to be the authors of the Book of James because they did not have capability and opportunity to do that. Instead, the author of the Book of James implies that he is the brother of Jesus Christ. In this regard, it is possible to refer to evidences from Biblical texts:
Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? (Mathew, 13:55).
Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. (Mark, 6:3)
Finally, Paul also witnesses in favor of James, the brother of Jesus Christ:
But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord’s brother. (Galatians, 1:19)
At this point, it is worth mentioning the fact that initially James was not a believer: “All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers” (Acts, 1:14). Nevertheless, under the impact of Jesus Christ and on witnessing his resurrection, James turned to Christianity. Later, James was the head of the Jerusalem church:
and when James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised.(Galatians, 2:9).
Remarkably, he addresses his Book to Jews:
“James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting” (James, 1:1).
The form of appeal, “greeting”, is typical for Jewish style.
James wrote his Book to encourage Jewish faith in God and to turn them to Christianity: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance” (James: 1:2-3). In such a way, he appeals to his countrymen to persuade them to turn to the teaching of Jesus Christ as the only true religion.
At the same time, the Book of James was written in response to overzealous teaching of Paul regarding faith”
“In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith; I have deeds.’ Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.” (James, 1:17-18).
In such a way, James attempts to avoid too exaggerated, overzealous view on Christianity and teaching of Jesus Christ. Instead, he attempts to make it more objective and free of biases. In fact, the Book of James complemented but not contradicted to Paul’s reaching regarding faith: “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19). At this point, it is important to place emphasis on the fact that it was very to persuade Jews and to turn them to Christianity because Jerusalem was the cradle of Christianity. Therefore, early Christians needed the support of the local population to spread Christianity worldwide, according to Christian teaching.
At the same time, James promoted ideas, which were close to those of Paul. For instance, James stood on the ground that good actions will naturally flow from those who are filled with the Spirit and questions whether someone may or may not have a saving faith if the fruits of the Spirit cannot be seen, much as Paul describes in Galatians 5:22-23: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Galatians, 5:22-23).
James attempted to show the power of faith and the importance of the spread of Christianity, which actually did not need much efforts but just conveying ideas of Jesus Christ to people en masse: “Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.” (James, 3:5).
James stresses the importance of a virtuous life and faith, instead of pursuit of material values and wealth:
For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth: so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways. Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him. (James, 1:11-12).
In such a way, James shows that faith is very important but people should lead a virtuous life to be good Christians. James stood on the ground that the faith is the key to happiness of Christians but, at the same time, he stressed that the faith is dead without actions. In other words, to have faith, Christians should cat respectively to Christian norms and values. Otherwise, their faith would be pretentious.
Finally, James stressed the importance of faith and worshiping of God: “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” (James, 5: 16b). He viewed worshipping of God and praying as the way to reach God and to enhance one’s faith. However, James attempts to avoid overzealous views on worshiping and faith, which are the characteristics of Paul’s texts.
Thus, the Book of James was written by the brother of Jesus Christ and appealed to Jews. The author attempted to avoid overzealous view on Christianity and faith typical for Paul. Instead, he attempted to convey more moderate view on Christianity, promoting key concepts developed by Jesus Christ and spreading the faith among Jews to reach the target audience and to promote Christianity.
Book of James. In Bible. New York: St. Martin Press, 2009.
Book of Mathew. In Bible. New York: St. Martin Press, 2009.
Grant, Robert M. The Formation of the New Testament. New York: Harper & Row, 1965
Laws, S. “The Letter of James”. in Wayne A. Meeks et al. The HarperCollins Study Bible: New Revised Standard Version, with the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books. New York: HarperCollins,1993.