We do not know who the intended recipients of this letter are. Neither do we know who the author is. Some believe the letter may be from James, Jesus brother; but it may also be written by a follower of the teaching of James. There is also ambiguity about the dating of the letter. Furthermore, there is not an obvious structure to the letter.

While James does not directly quote Jesus, we do find references and allusions to many of Jesus sayings.

Luke T. Johnson says this about “James”:

The teaching of James is general rather than particular, traditional more than novel, moral rather than theological. The goal of the writing is not so much right thinking as right acting. The fundamental contrast is between verbal profession and actions; when James contrasts “faith” and “works” (2:14), he sets empty belief in opposition to lived practice…

James claims neither novelty nor depth. But no reader can mistake its lively voice or moral passion. Traditional teaching is given vibrancy in this exhortation to practical faith and active love. (1162)


1:1 Salutation

1:2-27 Opening exhortations

1:2-18 the blessings of trials

1:19-27 True worship

2:1-13 The Law of God’s Kingdom

2:14-26 Faith and Works

3:1-12 The Control of Speech

3:13-4:10 Friendship with God

4:11-17 Against Arrogance

5:1-11 Persecution and Patience

5:12-20 Life in the Community

Read More About It:

Johnson, Luke Timothy, The Writings of the New Testament: An Interpretation, rev. ed. (Minneapolis:Fortress Press) 1999. Chapter 23 “The Letter of James”.

Johnson, Luke T. “James”  in HarperCollins Bible Commentary, rev. ed.James L Mays, ed. (New York: Society of Bible Literature) 2000.

Quanbeck, Warren A., Pheme Perkins,  “James in The New Oxford Annotated Bible, Bruce M. Metzger, Roland E. Murphy eds. (New York: Oxford University Press) 1994.