Bible Study: James – Introduction

This Book of James Introduction, is basic, but sufficient to introduce you to the author, who was probably the brother of Jesus, and a prominent member of the early Christian Church.

James 1
James 2


Book of James Introduction: Outline

1:1 Introduction Greeting
1:2–27 Opening words

1:2–11 First part: testing, prayer and wealth
1:12–27 Second part: testing, gifts, listening, and doing
2:1–26 Testing through generosity
2:1–13 Partiality and love
2:14–26 Generosity and Faith
3:1–4:12 Testing through the tongue
3:1–12 The evil in the tongue
3:13–18 The antidote for the tongue
4:1–10 The source of evil and its cure
4:11–12 Concluding appeal
4:13–5:6 Testing through wealth
4:13–17 The test of the wealthy
5:1–6 Testing by the wealthy
5:7–20 Conclusion
5:7–11 Summary of patient endurance
5:12 Oaths
5:13–18 Prayer for health
5:19–20 Purpose statement
(This outline was taken from Carson, D. A., R. T. France, J. A. Motyer, and G. J. Wenham, eds. New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition. 4th ed. Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994.)

James: Date Written

“James must have been written before A.D. 62, the year Jacob/James was martyred. There is strong indication it was even written prior to the Jerusalem Council of Acts 15. This book does not contain some of the more detailed and developed doctrines of the New Testament found in Paul’s epistles, or even in Peter’s epistles. Thus, most believe it was written somewhere between A.D. 45 and 50.” (Fruchtenbaum, Arnold G. The Messianic Jewish Epistles: Hebrews, James, First Peter, Second Peter, Jude. 1st ed. Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries, 2005.)


Which James?

James, the brother of Jesus

The relationship of this James as the brother of Jesus has been disputed heavily in the Christian church.
The idea of Jesus having brothers is mentioned in three places

Mark 6:3, “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? Are not His sisters here with us?” And they took offense at Him.”
Acts 1:14, “These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.”
1 Cor. 9:5, “Do we not have a right to take along a believing wife, even as the rest of the apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas?”

The three main theories about this James are

James was the literal blood half-brother of Jesus, born after Jesus, whose parents were Joseph and Mary
James was Jesus’ stepbrother from a previous marriage of Joseph
James was a cousin of Jesus

This James apparently was not a believer at first but later came to trust in Christ after Jesus appeared to people (1 Cor. 15:7)
Jude mentions James as well. Jude 1, “Jude, a bond-servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, To those who are the called, beloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ:”

This implies either that Jude was a literal brother or that the term is used figuratively.

James was a cousin of Jesus

This James apparently was not a believer at first but later came to trust in Christ after Jesus appeared to people (1 Cor. 15:7)

James, the son of Zebedee

A fisherman on the Sea of Galilee, who was the brother of John and Peter, who was called by Jesus to be an apostle (Matt. 4:21; Mark 1:16-20; Luke 5:10-11).
Always listed among the first three names in the four lists of the twelve apostles (Matt. 10:2–4; Mark 3:16–19; Luke 6:14–16; Acts 1:13)
He was called a Son of Thunder (Mark 3:17) and was rebuked in Luke 9:54 by Jesus when they wanted to destroy the Samaritans.
Is the only apostle of Jesus whose death is recorded in Scripture (Acts 12:2). (Note: Judas’ death was also recorded in Matt. 27:5; Acts 1:18)
Legend says he preached and died in Spain.
See also Mark 10:35, John 21:2

James, the son of Alphaeus

Listed as one of the original disciples (Mark 3:18)
Listed among the four lists of apostles and always designated as the “son of Alphaeus” (Matt. 10:2–4; Mark 3:16–19; Luke 6:14–16; Acts 1:13)
He is not mentioned except in these lists.

James, the son of Mary (not the Mary who gave birth to Jesus)

Not much is said of this James, but he is related to another Mary
Mary, the mother of James, was a witness to Jesus’ crucifixion (Matt. 27:56; Mark 15:40), who brought spices to anoint Jesus’ body (Mark 16:1), and who was among those women who witnessed Jesus’ resurrection (Luke 24:10).

James, the father of Judas, not Judas Iscariot

Not much is known of him except that is mentioned in Luke 6:16 and Acts 1:13


For more information in the introduction to James, please see

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