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Bible Commentaries

Derickson's Notes on Selected BooksDerickson on Selected Books

- James

by Stanley L. Derickson

Mr. D’s Notes on James

Rev. Stanley L. Derickson Ph.D.

Copyright 2006

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the author, except as provided by U.S.A. copyright laws. Do feel free to make copies for friends that might be interested as long as you do not make profit from the copies. This is God’s work and I don’t want anyone to profit from it in a material way.


There are a couple of theories relating to the person of James.

One suggests that there are two men named James. James the brother of John, and James the Less. James the Less is suggested to be the half-brother of Christ, but the word used can extend to a cousin as well as a brother.

Others suggest three men named James. James the brother of John, James the Less, and James the brother of Christ.

James the brother of John:

a. Brother of John Mark 3:17

b. Son of Zebedee Mark 3:17

c. Killed by Herod Acts 12:1-2

d. Fisherman

e. An apostle

James the Less:

a. This man is identified as Clophas and Alphaeus, which are both taken from the same Hebrew word and seem to be the same man.

b. Mark 15:40 and John 19:25 in the same context show Mary as the mother of James the Less, and the wife of Clopas.

c. He is also mentioned as brother of Joses and Salome in Mark 3:18.

d. This is not Christ’s brother for their mothers are both listed in John 19:25.

e. He is last mentioned in Acts 1:13.

James, Christ’s half-brother:

a. Christ’s half-brother is mentioned in Galatians 1:19 and Matthew 13:55 and he may have had other brothers and sisters Mark 6:3; Psalms 69:8 (John 2:13-17 shows Psalms 69:8 as being Messianic.)

b. See Matthew 12:46-50 and Matthew 13:55.

c. He was a pillar of the church Galatians 2:9.

d. He was important in the church at Jerusalem. Acts 15:13 mentions him as one of the leaders at the Council in Jerusalem.

e. A James was martyred in 62 A.D. Josephus says "And bringing before them James, the brother of him who is called Christ, and some others, he accused them as transgressor of the law, and had them stoned to death." James Belief in Action; Correspondence School; Moody Press; Chicago; 1962.

Hegeippus, an historian, relates some of the details of his death.

The Scribes and Pharisees, after placing James in a pinnacle of the temple, begged him to restrain the people, as large numbers were embracing Christianity." They asked him what door Christ would enter when He returned and He replied "Why ask ye me concerning Jesus the Son of Man? He sitteth at the right hand of power and will come again on the clouds of heaven: Many of his hearers then cried: Hosanna to the Son of David. This so infuriated the Pharisees that they threw him down headlong; then stoned him and beat him to death with a fullers club." James Faith in Action; G. Coleman Luck; pp. 12, 13; Moody Press; Chicago; 1954.

Barnes Notes mentions: "He is described by Jewish historians of that day as a man eminent for his integrity of life, and as well meriting the applelation or surname which he bore among the Jews, of the Just. He is mentioned as one who set himself against the corruptions of the age, and who was thence termed the bulwark of the people. His manner of life is represented as strict and holy, and such as to command in an eminent degree the confidence of his countrymen, the Jews. He frequently prostrated himself on his knees in the temple, calling on God to forgive the sins of his people, praying that the divine judgments on the unbelievers might be averted, and that they might be led to repentance and faith, and thus to a participation of the kingdom of the glorified Messiah."

So, who was the author? There seems to be some confusion. Constable suggests that he was just a man at Jerusalem, not the James of the Gospels, not one of the twelve.

Most I’ve read view this writer as the apostle and the half-brother of Christ. Several make comment that just because he doesn’t identify himself as an apostle does not mean he wasn’t one.

A little about the author would be of interest. If we have the correct James, he was also brother to the Jude that wrote the epistle. Both introduce themselves as a servant of God in their books. Jude tells of his brother relationship to James in verse one of his epistle.

We don’t know when he became a believer, but he was a believer shortly after the resurrection. Paul mentions in the context of Christ appearing to believers, that he appeared to James then to all of the apostles, thus also indicating that this James was the apostle James 1 Corinthians 15:5-8. Note however, that there were two men named James that were apostles (Matthew 10:1-4).

It may be of note that James, an apostle, and the half-brother of Christ, does not call to either of these credentials to gain the readers attention. This might suggest that he knew his recipients quite well and knew that they knew who and what he was. This would enforce the theory that the recipients were from the Day of Pentecost or Acts eight.

Eusebius mentions that he lived as a Nazarite in the Old Testament fashion of Numbers 6:1-21. He also mentions that he was a prayer warrior of some great degree.

DATE: Since it seems that the James that was martyred wrote the letter, and since that James died in 62 A.D., it would seem that it was written prior to that date. Some suggest that James does not mention the Jerusalem council in 49 A.D. thus it must have been earlier than that, however there is no requirement for a writer to give a history lesson in a letter relating to other subjects, so this idea has little support.


Many suggest that it was to those Northwest of Israel between Israel and Greece, as does Jamison, Fausset and Brown, "Peter addresses the dispersed Jews of Pontus, Galatia, and Cappadocia; James, the Israelites of the twelve tribes scattered abroad”

Acts 2:8-11 tells of the day of Pentecost when Jews from all over the world gathered and heard Peter preach. Many were saved that day and went off across the world spreading the good news.

Some suggest that the letter was to twelve locations, but the text says tribes so I’m not sure what that is based on.

There is also the possibility that the letter was going out to people known to the apostle from the church in Jerusalem. In Acts eight we are told of the scattering of the church, thus he may have been trying to encourage and teach those that he knew.

Either of the Acts accounts could be the basis for the letter, and I think I would lean toward the latter in that the occasion to write would be stronger if the RECIPIENTS were to be people James knew personally.

Just a side note, no matter whom James was writing to, he introduces us to the thought of TWELVE tribes. Many have taught in the past that the ten northern tribes of Israel were lost into the masses of humanity, but James would differ with that teaching - he viewed the twelve tribes as existing in some manner in his time. A reading of Revelation seven will also show that the twelve tribes are a reality.

These are sometimes called the diaspora which comes from the Greek word used here. It relates to people living outside of Israel. I am a part of the Nebraska diaspora for I was born and raised in Nebraska, but am now one of the thousands that left Nebraska to dwell elsewhere.

This term is used of the scattering of the Old Testament Jews as well (Those that were taken captive after the fall of Israel.). It is properly used also of those Jews today living outside of Israel. They are scattered among the nations until God regathers then in the end time.

Barnes points out that there were two dispersions, one under the Babylonians to the east and one under Alexander the Great to the west. He also mentions that some suggest that James was writing to these Jews that were taken to the east, that it is a Jewish letter. I rather doubt, as does Barnes, that he would have introduced a letter to Jews that hated Christ as one coming from a servant of Christ. The Babylonian captivity was many years earlier and those people would have had little interest in Christ, if indeed, they had even heard of Him in their place of residence.


James was eminently qualified to write this book. He was a Jew saved by grace and highly respected among his peers.

James is a book that is close to works. It is the "show leather for your Christian walk," it is shoes for your faith. It will challenge your Christian couch potato syndrome quite heavily.

It was a battle cry to the despersion to raise above the ways of the world and to set their spiritual life in order and get to work for their Lord.

Matthew Henry mentions of the book, “This epistle of James is one of the most instructive writings in the New Testament. Being chiefly directed against particular errors at that time brought in among the Jewish Christians, it does not contain the same full doctrinal statements as the other epistles, but it presents an admirable summary of the practical duties of all believers."

We might mention that these Jewish Christians that were introducing error may have been doing it quite innocently. If, as we have surmised these are believers from Pentecost, and if they did leave fairly soon after the event was over, then they were leaving with little if any discipleship. Even if they had been at the church at Jerusalem and were the scattered of Acts eight, they would not have been fully discipled and grounded in the Word.

They would have understood all that they had heard in light of their Jewishness and would naturally have not had the revelation that the apostles had from the Lord. Error was sure to creep in with this setting.

I once heard a translator state that they never gave the gospel while with a tribe translating; they just did their work and left without teaching them anything. The Indians were left with a Bible in their own language and that the Spirit would lead them.

What utter foolishness. Yes, the Spirit will lead them - if and when they get saved. Yes, the Spirit will lead them - if they happen to study the Spirit in the Word first and find out what is going on in their spiritual side - that they have never been in touch with.

The great commission tells us to disciple, not leave them to their own devices!

A possible application to this is that we ought to be sure we disciple those that we have opportunity to reach before they go out into the world. A further application might be that we are patient with those that are untaught in the Word. They may misspeak, but there is no need to pound them into the ground for their error - correct them in Christian love.

I have seen, many times, on the internet forums people that love to crush misstatements of others - usually people that are untaught. People that are there to learn, and speak of things they don’t understand, and rather than take it as an opportunity to disciple, some take the opportunity to grind them into the dust beneath their feet, showing them to be the ignorant idiot that they think them to be.


The book is full of commands (there we go, lots of do’s and don’ts for people to make fun of - but these are God’s not some man’s so this is NOT legalism)

There is a strong Jewish flavor to the book, many references to Old Testament books and people. A writer that is well versed in Judaism and its rich tradition.

There is also a strong emphasis on the Sermon on the Mount. Constable suggests some areas that James mentions Matthew 5:20; Matthew 5:48; Matthew 6:1.

Mr. Unger has a good passage on the book that I would like to share at this point. "After a brief greeting he exhorts his readers to take the proper attitude toward testing and trials and warns them to react properly toward the Word of God. He rebukes a demonstration of carnal partiality. He expounds the uselessness of faith apart from works. He inveighs against the sin of an uncontrolled tongue. He expounds true and false wisdom. He advises them against quarrelsomeness, worldliness and pride. He inculcates brotherly consideration. He criticizes the spirit of their business activity. He calls them to patient endurance of life’s misfortunes. He shows them what to do when afflicted and he stresses the need for restoring a person who has gone astray." Unger’s Bible Dictionary

Consider that "to ralley Christians from worldliness to the Privileges of their faith." What a book for our day and age in Christian society in the 2000s!


1. It crossed my mind that there was some import to the first writers of the New Testament times. They had the Old Testament or had heard its teachings, I don’t know how prolific copies were at this time, but the apostles must have felt it important to get some of this information down for future generations. Those first writers, whom I believe to have been James and Mark, took that first step to set their remembrances down for others to read.

I have also wondered if hearing of their writings might have prompted some of the others to set to work on their own accounts.

Paul’s letters were mostly just written for the edification of the local churches involved, but all the books contain valuable information for the believer. They all saw the need for the information to be given to others - it wasn’t just for their own personal benefit.

The whole concept of discipleship in the great commission is the passing on of information. Paul had it right when he penned 2 Timothy 2:2 "And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also."

We are to be in the business of passing on what we have in the spiritual realm. We ought not to keep a lid on it; we should take off the lid and teach others so that they can teach others. This cycle is critical to the church continuing to exist.

I do not endorse the "tradition" of the Roman church, but they certainly have it right in the idea of passing on their teaching to future generations. The writings since the canon was closed are not inspired, but they can be very valuable to the believer, even today.

Recently I discovered that my mother lived, for a time, in a town about two hundred miles from her hometown. I have no idea why she was there. My parents did not pass on the family stories and thus there are many blank spots in my knowledge of my own family. I don’t know if my children will be interested in the family history, but they will certainly have it, since I have set it to the computer.

I would further guess these men had no idea that their writings would ever be set into a canon of Scripture for the use of the church.

The final thought might run along the lines that if God leads you to do something for Him, be sure to do it; you have no idea what He might decide to do with it in the future.

2. We have in James a standard, a standard to be met, not observed, considered and rejected as too difficult.

I was having chest pains so went to the emergency room for a quick check. They could find nothing wrong but before they let me go home I had a minor heart attach on the table. They rushed me into a procedure to correct the problem and I rested in the hospital for a couple days.

I tell you this because I would like to illustrate how some Christians might view James.

My cardiologist came in for his first visit. Now, remember, the prescribed action to avoid another heart attack is a low fat, low salt, low sugar diet to get the weight off and lower the cholesterol. Okay, with that background, my cardiologist showed up for his first visit -- He was about the heaviest doctor I have ever seen, and he was chewing delightfully on a chocolate he had picked up at the nurses station.

In my mind, I had to wonder about the common sense this man was lacking - dealing with heart attacks, and plugged arteries all day and allowing himself to be so overweight and eating all the wrong things. He certainly was not setting an example that my wife wanted me to follow to assure long life.

James sets a standard before us, and it is a standard to be adopted, not considered.


1. James Belief in Action; Correspondence School; Moody Press; Chicago; 1962.

2. Stick Out Your Faith and Say AAH; James T. Dyet; Baptist Press; Denver ;1975.

3. Leaders Resource Guide; Stick Out Your Faith and Say AAH; James T. Dyet; Baptist Press; Denver ; 1975.

4. Aldersgate Biblical Series: James and Peter; Light and Life Press; Winona Lake; Marvin l. Galreath; 1962.

5. James Faith in Action; G. Coleman Luck; Moody Press; Chicago; 1954.

6. Studies in James; Living Word Curriculum T254208; Gospel Light; Glendale; 1972.

7. The Letters of James and Peter; William Barclay; Westminsteer Press; Philadelphia; no copyright date shown.

8. James Faith that Works; Harold L. Fickett Jr.; Regal; Glendale; 1972.

9. "THE GENERAL EPISTLE OF JAMES by Barnes; from the internet in .txt format

10. Gill’s Notes on James; from the internet in .txt format

11. Dr. Constable’s Notes on James; from the internet in .pdf format

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