Who was the author? The author of the book was James, one-time leader of the Church in Jerusalem, the brother of Jude, and a "kinsman" of the Lord Jesus, likely a step-brother, but possibly anything from someone as close as a half-brother to a cousin or more distant relative or fellow-believer.
What is the book? The book is an homily in the form of an apostolic letter to Jewish Christians in Jerusalem and elsewhere in Israel, perhaps scattered after Stephen's death (Acts 8:1; 11:19).
Where was it written? The letter was likely written from Jerusalem, despite some Christians having been scattered from the city, James was martyred there, and some Jews interpreted the Romans' sack of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 as God's punishment for the Jewish leaders' having put James to death.
When was it written? Possibly one of the earliest works of the New Testament, the letter can be dated as early as A.D. 45.
Why? Poverty and persecution, possibly in the wake of Stephen's martyrdom, seem to have been tempting the original hearers of James to give in to the pressures of Judaism in the world. James seems to have written to provide needed correction and discipline.
How? In a truly Jewish letter that is organized simply, familiar with Old Testament writings and the teachings of Jesus, and written in good Greek, James emphasizes vital Christianity, Christianity that is characterized by faith that shows itself in the way the believers live and the things they do.
For further reading on the book of James:
- Lenski, R. C. H. The Interpretation of the Epistle to the Hebrews and of the Epistle of James. Columbus, OH: Wartburg Press, 1946. (This volume was originally published in 1937, is available in our library, and will likely have some helpful comments in its 173 pages on James.)
- Scaer, David P. James, the Apostle of Faith: A Primary Christological Epistle for the Persecuted Church. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 1994. (I have seen but do not think I have this book, originally published by Concordia Publishing House in 1983 and republished by CPH in 1994. If you want to order it, the current ISBNs are said to be 1592449905 and 9781592449903.)