Overview: James

The letter of James, or at least that’s his name in English. If you look in the Greek you will see that his name is Iakobos, which translates his Hebrew name Yáakov. And that’s why most ancient and modern translations render his name as Jacob. That’s how we’re going to call him in this video. Now, there are many Jacobs in the New Testament. Two of them belonged to Jesus’ inner circle of the 12 disciples, but this letter comes from the Jacob who was the half-brother of Jesus himself. Now, we learned this Jacob’s story from the book of Acts and from Paul’s letters. After Peter moved on from Jerusalem to go start new churches Jesus’ half-brother Jacob rose to prominence as a leader in the Mother Church in Jerusalem. It was made up mostly of Messianic or Christian Jews. This was the first Christian community ever. And we know that it fell on hard times during the 20 years that Jacob was its leader. There was a famine that led to great poverty in the region and these Messianic Jews were being persecuted by Jewish leaders in Jerusalem. But through it all Jacob was known as a pillar of the Jerusalem church. He was also known as a peacemaker who led with wisdom and courage until he was tragically murdered. And in this book we have the legacy of Jacob’s teaching and wisdom condensed into a short and very powerful work. The book begins like a letter. He greets all the Messianic Jews who were living outside the Land of Israel. But this does not read like one of Paul’s letters where he addresses specific problems in one local church, rather this book is a summary of Jacob’s sage wisdom for any and every community of Jesus’ followers. And Jacob’s goal isn’t to teach new theological information, rather he wants to get in your business and challenge how you live. Jacob’s wisdom has been heavily influenced by two sources: The first is Jesus’ teaching about life in the kingdom of God. Especially the Sermon on the Mount which is constantly echoing and quoting in the book. The second key influence is the biblical wisdom book of Proverbs. Especially the poems and proverbs one through nine. Jacob literally grew up with Jesus and with the book of Proverbs and so now his own teaching sounds like them. It’s stamped by their language and imagery. The book consists of short challenging wisdom speeches that are full of metaphors and easy to memorize one-liners. And in essence Jacob is calling the Messianic community to become truly wise by living according to Jesus’ summary of the Torah: To love God and to love your neighbor as yourself. The body of the book is in chapters 2 through 5. Which consists of 12 short teachings that call God’s people to wholehearted devotion to the way of Jesus. And altogether they don’t develop one main idea in a linear way. Each teaching kind of stands alone and concludes with a catchy one-liner, but all of these teachings are connected through key repeated words and themes – it’s really cool. At the opening of the books body there are two teachings: First about favoritism and love Jacob exposes how we tend to show favor to people who can benefit us and we neglect people who can’t. Usually because they’re needy. Jacob says this is the opposite of love as Jesus defined it. He goes on to show what genuine faith does and does not look like. So, if someone says that they have faith in God, but neglects people who are needy or poor, this person’s faith is dead, he says. Their actions betray what they say they believe. And genuine faith always results in obedience to Jesus’ teachings. Now scattered throughout the body of the book we find three different places where Jacob develops Jesus’ own teaching about our words. So, with the same mouth we unleash pain upon people and then go offer praise to God – so messed up! And also we judge people and then go talk badly about them behind their backs! And we also all tend to distort the truth to our own advantage. How we talk about people opens up a window into our hearts and our core values. Our words tell the real truth about our character. Jacob also believes that God’s kingdom community, as Jesus taught about it, Is the kind of place where the divisions created by wealth and social status are dismantled. So, he warns first about the arrogance that wealth can create in people who believe it will be around forever. He says: “No, your wealth will one day rot just like you.” In contrast, God’s people are to live with patience and hope for Jesus’ return to set all things right and this should inspire a life of faith-filled prayer. Now, this part of the book, all of these teachings, they’re so powerful and there’s way more than we have time for in this video, but, seriously, read all of them and slowly. Now, placed in front of these 12 wise teachings is the introductory chapter. It’s a flowing stream of wise teachings and one-liners. And they’re designed to sum up the main ideas of the entire book. this chapter actually introduces you to all the key words and themes that you’re going to meet in chapters 2 through 5. Jacob opens by saying that he knows from personal experience – Life is hard. He was martyred after all, not long after writing this letter. But he believes that life’s trials and hardships are actually paradoxical gifts that can produce endurance and shape our character. God can do amazing work inside of us in the midst of suffering and help us become perfect and complete. Now, that word “perfect” it’s really important for Jacob. He repeats it seven times in the book. In Biblical Hebrew and in Greek this word refers to wholeness. It means living a completely integrated life where your actions are always consistent with the values and beliefs that you’ve received from Jesus. Jacob knows that most of us actually live as fractured people with big inconsistencies in our character. we are all more compromised than we want to admit. However, God is on a mission to restore fractured people to make them whole. And it begins with wisdom – the ability to see my hardships through a new perspective. God will generously give this kind of wisdom to people who ask for it in faith, without doubting God’s character. And when we realize our humble and frail place before God we are forced to choose between anxiety or trust. And true wisdom means choosing to believe that God is good despite my circumstances. So, if it’s poverty that’s forcing you into hard times in life Jacob says: “Try and view it as a gift that forces you to trust in God alone.” And besides wealth is fleeting it’s all going to pass away like wildflowers in the summer heat. And so when we do fall into hard times don’t accuse God, rather let your circumstances teach you what Jesus taught about God’s character, that the father is generous, that he’s there to meet us in our pain and that he’s trustworthy. It’s this God who through Jesus has given us new birth to become new kinds of humans, who can face their suffering with total trust in the father just like Jesus did. And this new humanity is something we discover when we not only listen to God’s Word but do what it says. Jacob calls God’s Word here “The perfect Torah of freedom.” He’s referring here to the greatest command of the Torah that passed on to us through Jesus. That he freed us to love God and love our neighbor. And Jacob shows practically what that kind of love looks like. It means speaking to others in a kind and loving way, it means serving the poor and it means living with wholehearted devotion to God alone. Now you can see how this opening chapter contains all the key words and ideas explored more deeply in the twelve teachings of chapters 2 through 5. Jacob immersed himself in the wisdom of Jesus and of the proverbs. And he’s giving us a great gift in this book of his own wisdom. This is a beautifully crafted punch in the gut for those who want to follow Jesus. And that is what the book of James or Jacob is all about.

100 Replies to “Overview: James

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  2. i have a question about the author of this letter.

    i persume that you are verry sure that the author of this letter is Jacobs the brother of Jesus. As you say in this video. But, i've heard so many theory that we cannot be sure who wrote this letter. In fact, there are so many Jacobs in the New Testament that has become a good man. Also as you say in this video. So, why you can be so sure that the author of this letter is Jacobs the brother of Jesus? Where is the data in the bible? Also you say, he was tragically murdered. But i cannot find anywhere in the bible that said Jacobs (the just) or Jacobs brother of Jesus got murdured. in Acts.12, it says that Jacobs/James the brother of John got killed with sword. in Acts.15 and Gal.1-2, we can find another Jacobs still alive and talking, i would persume he is Jacobs the brother of Jesus. But i cannot find any data in the bible that saying he is tragically murdered, like you said in this video. So, what theory you based with?

    God Bless.

  3. This is the best video I have ever seen. The Narration, Illustrations and theme of the video makes me want to give a standing ovation.

  4. I find James so fascinating because it contains so many slightly different echoes of Jesus' words in Matthew. This makes perfect sense though if you remember the NT was written in Greek, but Jesus spoke Aramaic. One would expect two witnesses of Jesus message to translate the teachings in slightly different ways (rather than word for word agreement, which usually indicates one merely copied the other). The similarity of themes between James, Matthew and The Didache makes me curious which was the source for the others, or if they all arose spontaneously from a community that emphasized the same stories and themes.

  5. Bro Jacob is a lucky dude, growing up with Jesus. That would be one of the coolest yet easiest siblings to grow up with, think about it

  6. Keep it up guys yall are really impacting people's lives and for Gods will, "… But we have this treasure, in earthen vessels, that the power and the excellency may be of God, and not of us."

  7. Hey guys. I only found the word PERFECT (teleios) FIVE times in the book of James. ("full [perfect] effect" 1.4) ( "perfect and complete" 1.4). ("perfect gift" 1.16) ("perfect law" 1.25) ("perfect man" 3.2) .
    Anyone know where the other TWO is? is it TELOS is chapter 5.11 translated as "outcome"?

  8. I love the book of James. It and Hebrews are probably my two all-time favorite epistles… I did want to comment on one thing, though. You mention James being the half-brother of Jesus. I am Catholic, and we believe in Mary's 'perpetual virginity' (that Jesus is the only Child Mary conceived or gave birth to). When the Bible talks about Jesus' 'brothers' it is taken to mean 'brethren', ie kinsmen. For instance Lot and Abraham are called 'brothers', even though, genealogically, the Bible is clear that they are uncle and nephew. And in Luke Mary goes to see her 'cousin' Elizabeth, but the Greek reads 'Suggenes' (relative).
    Another big misnomer is Matthew 1:25, that says Joseph 'did not know [Mary] UNTIL she brought forth her firstborn Son'.. Many wrongly assert that if Joseph didn't know her UNTIL then, that he must've known her AFTER. But that clause is only to get us to focus on her virginity, not what came after. For instance Jesus says 'and lo I am with you always, even UNTIL the end of the world' – Are we to conclude that He won't be with us after the end of the world? Surely not.. Another instance is in 2nd Samuel, where it says Saul's daughter Michal 'bore no children from that day on UNTIL the day she died'… Surely she didn't have children after she died, right?
    And actually, Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Wesley, and Huldrych Zwingli (essentially all pillars of the Protestant Reformation) all believed that Mary maintained her virginity after Jesus, as well. So, in other words, all Catholics, all Eastern Orthodox, and many of the major Protestant Reformers believed this. Christian history at work… Just a little brotherly food for though. God Bless!!

  9. My daughter's ,middle school youth group uses these videos to kick off each of their book studies. They are SO HELPFUL!!!!

  10. A bit of revelation for you.
    When you or anyone else quotes from the new testament and says such and such a word is translated from the Greek word etc ….

    Remember, Jesus never spoke Greek neither did James / Jacob. My advice is that the Greek text is shallow compared to the Hebrew.

    For example, the word Light.
    In the Greek it's simply "phos" and it simply means a physical light ie light rays. So in John 1 it says Jesus is the physical light of men. Not very good. We have to use our imagination there a bit. That is so shallow. The word in Hebrew refering to the same creation period in Gen is "owr" and it means much more.


    light of lamp

    light of life

    light of prosperity

    light of instruction

    light of face

    Yahovah as Israel's light

    Jesus was all these.

    Another example is the word for fornication "porneia" and has been used to mean fornication or adultery and to see if adultery and fornication are the same we can look at God's laws. The Hebrew words for fornication and adultery are not the same.

    Also there are different laws for both one is stoning to death (adultery) the other is fining (fornication). That's why the king James has it correct when it quotes Jesus saying you can't divorce for anything but fornication. Only an unmarried person can commit fornication. If a married person has sex outside their marriage it's adultery.

    Divorce was only allowed to break off the engagement not a marriage. Hence the reason Joseph needed a divorce to break off the engagement from Mary even though the bible clearly states they were not married nor living together just engaged.

    That's also why the woman actually caught in adultery was to be stoned to death. After all the mastery of Jesus removing the required witnesses under the law to hold up the charge did he divorce the woman? No he sent her home.

    So the old testament is a treasury of information for the new.

  11. you say that "we know [the church in Jerusalem] fell on hard times during the 20 years that Jacob was its leader." Just wondering, how do you know it was 20 years? Not super important to the video content, I'm just curious where you are able to find that information.

  12. Thank you so much for these videos. Presenting The Holy Bible in this structural way has helped me a lot with understanding His Word.


  14. You got chapter 1:9-11 way wrong. It’s calling for a balanced and correct perspective as to what “riches and poverty” really are—not money-related, but character- and virtue-.

  15. James was one of the best apostles/disciples & his book brief and good.  My only critique is he speaks of personal favoritism & not judging a brother which he and the other disciples did by rebuking & refusing the children, shunning Jesus' other disciples whom they did not know and whom "were not against them" and thus "for them."  Also James  debated with other disciples about who was the greatest disciple and thus judged his brothers.

  16. Thank you BP! Your videos always helps me get a good and accurate overview of a book. This Sunday I begin teaching in James and thankful for your faithful ministry in providing this insight. God bless you and all you do!

  17. Invading the principalities of the prince of the power of the air with the Gospel!

    Yeshua bless you for this wonderful work. Deepens my understanding and fuels my fire for more scripture.

  18. I love the quality and content of these videos. I disagree with your view of James 2, but we'll let that slide. ::Wink:: Keep up the good work.

  19. I would like to challenge you and the many other commentators who say this is a compilation of wisdom-sayings or one-liners interwoven together. I think there is actually one issue specifically that he is addressing to a very specific church issue in the 1st century. The context clues to me are clear, but I know that what you have taught here is abundantly taught in books and commentaries so I may be going beyond the consensus. If you are interested in hearing me out, I would love to challenge you as a brother in Christ and perhaps persuade you to rethink–even remake this video. You guys are such a blessing to the church and I don't want to come off as high and mighty. I actually think you are missing something key in the book of James. It is a book I have been reading and meditating on for years and I think I am starting to see the main idea. Let me know if you want to talk about it.

  20. At what point do those in poverty should take responsibility of hard work and dedication?

    If you have no shelter or food to provide what commodity should we offer that convinces us that they wont spend it on alcohol or drugs?

    Being too nice as i am ive been tooken advantage of because giving was expected. How can we prevent this?

  21. The video is good, but I find the use of Jacob throughout unhelpful. I am not sure how they can claim that "most modern translations" call him Jacob. Most English translations do not. Are they referring to most translations in every language?

  22. I go to a Christian school and your videos are part of my homework for 6 grade thanks for making homework fun again 😄

  23. So you're saying Jesus has a biological sibling???
    As far as i know Jesus has no biological sibling. He has cousins tho. James was a cousin and "brother" is what they call to anyone at that time.

  24. One important other source for James that ought to be mentioned (along with the Sermon on the Mount and the OT Book of Proverbs) is the Old Testament book the Wisdom of Ben Sira (sometimes Sirach or Ecclesiasticus). Many Protestant Scholars (examples: David deSilva and Bruce Metzger) point out that James/Jacob shows a great familiarity and indebtedness to the text of Sirach. Just copy and paste these references into Biblegateway to see what I mean: James 1:8, Sirach 1:28; James 1:13, Sirach 15:11-20; James 1:19-20, Sirach 5:11; James 1:21, Sirach 3:17; James 3:6-12, Sirach 28:12 (and similar language about slips of the tongue: 5:13, 14:1, 19:16); and James 5:2-3, Sirach 29:9-11 (you will need to switch translations to one like the RSV, the CEB, the NABRE, or another translation with the Deuterocanon)

  25. All Scripture is inspired and beneficial, but I must say that I find such comfort when I study The Letter of James. And I do read it often. It's a powerful guide for so many aspects of life! Through some very difficult times, it has given me hope and perspective. This lesson on The Letter of James is a blessing! Thank you for helping me to better understand it. "If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself', you do well." – James 2:8

  26. I’ve listened to enough stories to conclude that the only thing you can get from Christianity is faith. The entire book is taken out of context but I challenge the super Christians to step out of their faith and explore other doctrines and possibly understand about what Christ really is and the power of yourself. Faith isn’t enough this will cause you to live a entire life of fear and ignorance especially cause it’s a sin to step outside this bible 🤦🏾‍♂️. good luck

  27. This is the same thing the last year of my own life because I refuse to be a part of the deceptive manipulation that I have been taught to believe as truth,& the same reason as to why I refuse to be accountable to be put on hold to get the bigger picture God I know my perspectives never in my life that I have been reflection in parallel with the respect God gave me to get back what God has in the same thing God is in control and I have freely given me a solid understanding that faith in front of the time and effort God is doing for me and through me and I have freely submitted myself for the actions of handling this well Forsaken existence of the living circumstances of reversed and revert on the same day as the drama of my 7/22/66

    The age I was when I was beginning to think I was going to experience a huge change my life and recovery is going well as I have freely given up on fighting against the greater good of a part of the faited journey of my constitutional amazing day of atonement the sabotage the same thing God is good and the days of the atonement to sabotage the quality of the time and effort you put into the lives having faith that God judgement of selfrespect to get as requested what requested for the actions of faith that voice of God in ACTS of making Doctor the quality of the time physicians to get the necessary changes the whole world is a gamble on this addictibility to get a chance to get the necessary limbic/pineal to their actions are killing their own patience in this position God is in control of the quality of life for him Faith brings understanding that the DNA results from adopted by the truth and the other lessons from biblical perspectives never been to the same place to uses without the primary reason for the actions of handling professional demeanor and I have been working in this case financially aborted to get a head above man's ability to make sure the path of fully resistance to God that the difference in the world is God's grace and mercy of the miracles seeing the new Star is Born in meeting myself

  28. I have been asked to teach Sunday school for grade schoolers and it’s very intimidating because I have never taught any kind of school. I don’t even have kids. It’s only for an hour during Church services on Sunday.
    I am planning on using your videos and then do a Q and R with the kids. I know God will help me and guide me. I am hoping the 6-12 yr olds will be able to understand and appreciate your work.
    If not, I can always put on Veggietales.

  29. I struggled with this book as James says faith without works is dead many times so I want to know, is this a transition in the bible? On opening this video, I was hoping it would answer my question. I am reading in so many other books, esp Paul's writings, that it is by faith in the gospel that we are granted salvation. Why here is James talking so much about works?

  30. Jesus has no half-brothers.
    I feel so sad that you don't read or listen to the historical proofs that these kin are cousins.

  31. Just found y'all and it had to be God because iv been struggling bad with my life and Iv found myself in high anxiety and depression this short video helped me a lot just now. Thank you.

  32. you guys are awesome God bless you extremely keep on teaching keep the faith Christ will do the rest your bro peace

  33. I tried looking for the 7 times it said "perfect", but I could only find 6. Anyone know where it's all located? I found it in 1:4, 1:17, 1:25, 2:22, 3:2..

  34. This is my favorite epistle because James states outright that what we do is just as important as what we believe. The other apostles don't deny this but James makes it very clear.

  35. I’m Greek and the fact that you addressed the Jacob and James situation first thing in the video helped a lot cause I was very confused at first!😅

  36. Wow, I'm amazed and inspired by every video to dig back into the bible and rediscover it all over again. God bless you and this channel!

  37. "Jacob" comes either from the Hebrew root עקב ʿqb meaning "to follow, to be behind" but also "to supplant, circumvent, assail, overreach", or from the word for "heel", עֲקֵב ʿaqeb.

    "to follow, overreach, the heel of God"


  38. ISAIAH 59 – JAMES
    “So shall they fear the name of the Lord from the west, and His glory from the rising of the sun; when the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him. (Isaiah 59:19)


    "The normal Christian life consist of many testings and it is your job as a believer to count it a joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that you will be blessed with the crown of life when you faithfully endure to the end. The purpose of all testings is to increase you in every way spiritually and physically that you may become pure as gold refined by fire. However, many do not make it through fiery trials because they are not faithful to uphold My truth in everyday matters. Your response to daily temptations is a good indication of what your response will be when the enemy comes in like a flood. If you are complacent, careless and casual about righteousness you will be swallowed up by darkness, for faith without works is dead. This is why being a doer of the word is vitally important and if there is no practical action in your life, then there is no overcoming nor crown that awaits you.

    When the enemy comes in like a flood I will lift up a standard against him. That standard is not for the compromised but the faithful. To be part of it then you must question, are you living up to My standards? Can I look at your life and be pleased or do you know deep down there’s more you can be? My desire is for you to receive your crown; but the enemy’s desire to rob you of it. Who are you going to listen to? Be faithful to stand strong in the truth you know, remembering that out of the tongue comes blessing or cursing. Resist the devil and he will flee from you, knowing that every trial is but for a time. Seize them as opportunities to grow and increase from and watch as you see the outpouring of blessings come flooding through for you."

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