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Who wrote the book of James? Who was the author of James?

author of James

The author of James simply identifies himself as “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ” (James 1:1). Because James the disciple was an early martyr (Acts 12:2), the likely candidate for the authorship of this epistle is James, the brother of Jesus (Galatians 1:19). A skeptic at the time of Jesus’ ministry (Mark 3:21; John 7:5), he converted after witnessing the resurrected Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:7). James later became a prominent figure in the church (Galatians 2:9).

James participated in the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15, delivering a speech in support of Paul (15:13–21). This is significant due to alleged contradictions between James and Paul, particularly regarding justification by faith (James 2:14–26; cf. Ephesians 2:8–9). The truth is that the teachings of Paul and James are complementary. While we are declared righteous through faith alone (Paul’s emphasis), our faith is intended to yield good deeds (James’ emphasis). Paul also emphasized the importance of good conduct resulting from faith in the gospel, aligning with the letter of James (see Ephesians 4:1).

The prevailing view remains that James, the brother of Jesus, is the author of the epistle bearing his name. Some modern scholars propose a pseudonymous alternative, suggesting that an anonymous author wrote the book under James’ name. However, this remains a speculative hypothesis, and there is no reason to discard the traditional view.

James addressed his recipients as “the twelve tribes scattered among the nations” (James 1:1), indicating Jewish Christians. That could explain the book’s emphasis on the moral aspect of the law (James 2:8–12). Even Paul urged Christians to love as a fulfillment of the law (Romans 13:8–10). Thus, while the law is inadequate as a means of salvation, God’s moral standard remains unchanged.

Due to its practical nature, the book of James is often likened to Jewish wisdom literature such as Proverbs and the book of Sirach. It is structured like a collection of sermons, written in the overall context of dealing with trials. The epistle explores themes like good deeds, godly wisdom, facing temptations, praying for the sick, and honorable living.

Like every other biblical text, the book of James remains pertinent for contemporary Christians, especially emphasizing the necessity of aligning actions with faith. While Paul’s teaching often challenges legalism, James stirs us away from licentiousness and passivity. Do our actions reflect our faith? This is the question posed by James, one we must all answer.

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Who wrote the book of James? Who was the author of James?
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This page last updated: April 2, 2024