Have you ever read the New Testament in the order in which the scholars believe it was actually written? If you have, then you started with the letter of James, which was probably written somewhere between the year 45 to 50, no more than two decades after Christ’s death and resurrection. It is believed that the James who wrote the letter is most likely the half-brother of Christ.
James is most likely writing to a group of Jewish Christians. The Council of Jerusalem, in which Paul and Peter came to an understanding that Gentile Christians did not have to be circumcised in order to follow the path of Christ, did not take place until the year 50. The worst of Christian persecution had not yet begun. Here was a religion based on the sayings held dear by its followers, with no cannon of books to follow and only a handful of rugged disciples determined to keep the name of Jesus alive.
As you approach James, knowing that the letter addresses the earliest Christian audience we have access to, you feel like you have been given a rare privilege. You soon discover that the early Christians, being human like the rest of us, had many of the same concerns we have today.
Concerns of the Christians in James:
- Trials being an opportunity to increase endurance. Recognize how endurance, like that which was called upon for the prophets, is in itself a blessing.
- The importance of watching what we say; how an unbridled tongue is a sign of a false religion.
- The great leveler that is sin: we are all the same; even one slip-up in the law is the same as defiling the whole of the law; failing to do what is right is just as bad as doing what is wrong.
- An active faith is a faith that has works. Without works, a person’s faith is a dead faith. Those works include taking care of orphans and widows.
- The progression of all that we do wrong begins with lust, which leads us to put pleasure before God, which leads to sin, which ultimately leads to death.
- The importance of prayer to maintain one’s faith.
If you are interested in reading the New Testament in the order in which it was likely written, according to my Ryrie Study Bible, you’ll read in this order:
James (A.D. 45-49)
1 and 2 Thessalonians (51)
Mark (50s or 60s)
Matthew (50s or 60s)
1 Corinthians (55)
2 Corinthians (56)
Colossians, Ephesians (61)
Philippians, Philemon (63)
1 Peter (63-64)
1 Timothy (63-66)
2 Peter (66)
2 Timothy (67)
1, 2, 3 John (90)