The readers were basically Hebrew Christians with some who were congregating
with them that had not had a life-changing, works-faith experience being practically
demonstrated in their lives (2:14,20,26;4:1-5).
The destination of this Epistle is the Jewish Christians of the Dispersion -
διασπορά, those Jews scattered outside of Palestine (1:1).
The writer of this Epistle identifies himself in the opening statement as James (1:1). No doubt he was well known and needed no further identification. Really there are only two possibilities: James, the brother of John, son of Zebedee and James, the half brother of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is not likely that the son of Zebedee, who was beheaded by Herod Agrippa I in A.D. 44 is the writer because there is no indication in Acts or elsewhere in the New Testament that he had an outstanding leadership ministry in the church as did the half brother of Jesus. So the writer has been generally accepted as the half brother of the Lord Jesus Christ, who presided over the first Church council at Jerusalem (Acts 15:13 cf. Gal. 1:18,19; 2:9,12) and performed a leading roll in the direction the Church was to take. It should also be noted that his brother, Jude likewise wrote a Catholic (general) Epistle which was included in the Canon of Scripture (Jude 1:1)
Internal evidence is limited to the opening salutation by James (1:1). This should be compared with what Paul wrote to the Galatians (1:18,19; 2:9).
External evidence requires more space than permitted in these concise notes.
Dating of James is prior to four conspicuous events which are not mentioned:
1. the Jewish rebellion (A.D. 66);
2. more particularly the destruction of Jerusalem (A.D. 70); and
3. the first Church council in Jerusalem (late Autumn A.D. 49) which was called to
deal with the Jewish-Gentile controversy over which James presided (Acts 15);
and even more pertinently
4. the martyrdom of James, the brother of our Lord (A.D. 62-63, the latest
possible date of writing). Additionally the strong Jewish emphasis with reference
to the primitive state of Church organization (congregation is called
‘‘synagogue’’ (2:2) and officers called elders (5:14), not bishops or deacons)
and emphasis upon the ‘‘law’’ (1:25; 2:8-12; 4:11) would indicate this epistle
was written in the early transitional stage of the Church and is the earliest of
New Testament writings, hence between A.D. 37 and A.D. 45.
The purpose of James is threefold:
1. to encourage Jewish Christians to patiently endure trials;
2. to warn against the sin of class discrimination and showing partiality; and
3. to emphasize works as an essential outflow to Scriptural faith.
In Progressive Revelation: God is revealed in James as the Lawgiver (4:12 cf. Isa.
33:22), Who will judge in a future day, but now gives man the opportunity to resist or
to submit to the devil; submission to God must be through humility; an intricate
relationship exists between faith and works without which regeneration has not
occurred; how serious and harmful is sin in word as well as deed; God at times
responds to united prayer efforts of the local church leaders (elders) for the healing of
a sick member.
The Book may be outlined as follows:
I. The Patience of Faith (1:1-27). IV. The Purity of Faith (4:1-17).
II. The Practice of Faith (2:1-26). V. The Prayer of Faith (5:1-20).
III. The Prudence of Faith (3:1-18).