The Epistle of James
by Felix Just, S.J., Ph.D.

Introduction | Outlines | Authorship | Themes | Lectionary | Questions | Bibliography


Introduction to the Epistle of James:


Some Outlines of the Epistle of James:

R. E. Brown (Introduction to the NT, p. 726) J. W. Thompson (HarperCollins Bible Dictionary, p. 481)

Division according to Contents/Topics:

  • Greetings (Opening Formula; 1:1)
  • The role of trials and temptations (1:2-18)
  • Words and deeds (1:19-27)
  • Partiality toward the rich (2:1-9)
  • Keeping the whole Law (2:10-13)
  • Faith and good works (2:14-26)
  • Power of the tongue (3:1-12)
  • Wisdom from above (3:13-18)
  • Desires as the cause of division (4:1-10)
  • Judging one another as judging the Law (4:11-12)
  • Further arrogant behavior (4:13-17)
  • Warning to the rich (5:1-6)
  • Patience till the coming of the Lord (5:7-11)
  • Admonitions on behavior within the community (5:12-20)
  I. Epistolary introduction (1:1)
 II. Introduction of major themes (1:2-27)
  1. Enduring trials (1:2-4, 12-15)
  2. Prayer and divine wisdom (1:5-8)
  3. Rich and poor (1:9-11)
  4. Wisdom from above (1:16-18)
  5. The use of the tongue (1:19-21)
  6. Doers of the word (1:22-27)
III. Development of major themes (2:1—5:20)
  1. Rich and poor in the assembly (2:1-13)
  2. Doers of the word (2:14-26)
  3. The use of the tongue (3:1-12)
  4. Prayer and divine wisdom (3:13—4:10)
  5. Doers of the law and judging one's brother (4:11-12)
  6. Rich and poor and the pursuit of wealth (4:13—5:6)
  7. Endurance of trials (5:7-11)
  8. On swearing (5:12)
  9. Prayer and faith (5:13-18)
  10. The recovery of a brother (5:19-20)

Note: This "epistle" or "letter" does not have a standard epistolary ending, but ends quite abruptly!


Modern Icon of St. James of Jerusalem, by Tobias Stanislas Haller, BSGAuthor and Authorship:

Who is "James"?

Authenticity and Date?


Main Themes of James:

The Centrality of Faith and Its Inseparable Connection with Good Works:

Ethical Teachings of James and Jesus / Parallels in James and Matthew:

JAMES Teaching cf. Matthew 
1:2 Be joyful in the midst of various trials 5:11-12
1:4 Be perfect, complete, and lack nothing 5:48
1:5 Ask from God, who gives generously 7:7
1:6 Ask in faith; do not doubt 21:21
1:19-20 Be slow to anger; anger does not lead to righteousness 5:22
1:22 Be doers of the word, not just hearers 7:24
2:5 God has chosen the poor as heirs of the kingdom 5:3
2:8 Love your neighbor as yourself (cf. Lev. 19:18) 22:39
2:10 Whoever fails to keep one law becomes guilty of it all 5:19
2:13 Judgment will be merciless for those who are not merciful 5:7
3:1 Not many of you should become teachers 23:8
3:2-10 Bridle the tongue 12:36-37
3:12 Can a fig tree bear olives, or a vine figs? 7:16
3:18 Righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace 5:9
4:4 Friendship with the world is enmity toward God 6:24
4:10 Humble yourself before the Lord, and he will lift you up 5:5
5:2-3 Your wealth has rotted... your gold and silver are rusted... 6:19-20
5:7-8 Be patient until the coming of the Lord 24:13
5:9a Do not complain against others, so you may not be judged 7:1
5:9b The judge is standing at the door 24:33
5:10 Take the patience of the prophets as an example of suffering 5:12
5:12 Do not swear by heaven or earth... let your 'yes' be 'yes', your 'no' be 'no' 5:34-37

Dangers of Riches:

Dangers of the Tongue:

Forgiveness of Sins and Anointing of the Sick:


Use of James in the Lectionary for Mass:

Sunday of the Liturgical Year Second Reading OT Year II, Week 6 First Reading OT Year II, Week 7 First Reading 
22nd Sunday of OT – Year B James 1:17-18, 21b-22, 27 Monday James 1:1-11 Monday James 3:13-18
23rd Sunday of OT – Year B James 2:1-5 Tuesday James 1:12-18 Tuesday James 4:1-10
24th Sunday of OT – Year B James 2:14-18 Wednesday James 1:19-27 Wednesday James 4:13-17
25th Sunday of OT – Year B James 3:16—4:3  Thursday James 2:1-9 Thursday James 5:1-6
26th Sunday of OT – Year B James 5:1-6  Friday James 2:14-24, 26 Friday James 5:9-12
3rd Sunday of Advent – Year A James 5:7-10 Saturday James 3:1-10 Saturday James 5:13-20

Questions for Review and Discussion:


For Further Reading and Study:

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This page was last updated on September 7, 2012
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