James the Brother of Jesus

Posted: August 2, 2012 in Devotionals & Bible Studies
Tags: , , , , , , , ,


Scripture references:
Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3; Acts 12:17; 15:13; 21:18;
Galatians 1:19; 2:9, 12



a.d.   30


James [JAYMZ;   “supplanter”]


James emerged as the   leader of the church in Jerusalem   and wrote the Book of James.



James the brother of Jesus emerged as the leader of the church in Jerusalem. He apparently chaired the first council of the church, held to discuss the relationship between Gentile Christians and Moses’ Law (Acts 15). Paul’s reference to James in Acts 21:18 also suggests that he was first among the elders of the Jerusalem church.

Later, James wrote a letter of exhortation to believing Jews, urging them to maintain a lifestyle appropriate to the faith. James’s letter, preserved in Scripture as the Book of James, may be the first written of the New Testament books.


James was the son of Mary and Joseph, the half-brother of Jesus Christ. According to the list of brothers in Matthew 13:55 and Mark 6:3, James was the eldest after Jesus. While they grew up in the same family, John’s Gospel makes it clear that throughout much of Christ’s earthly ministry “his brothers did not believe in him” (John 7:5).

After the death of the apostle James (Acts 12:2), James the brother of Jesus quickly emerged as the spiritual leader of the church in Jerusalem. He actively supported the apostles Peter and Paul, who urged that Gentile converts not be forced to keep Jewish Law. James’s statement of consensus expressed the decision of “the apostles, the elders, and the brethren” (Acts 15:23).

Tradition ascribes great piety to James, whose nickname was “camel-knees,” because of the calluses on his knees caused from spending so much time in prayer. James’s commitment to the practical expression of a true faith in Christ is clearly seen in the way of life taught in the book that carries his name.


James reminds us of Jesus’ observation that the last shall be first. James, despite or perhaps because of his intimate relationship with Jesus, found it hard to accept his half-brother as the Messiah and Son of God. But once the doubts were settled, Jamescommitment was unmatched, and he quickly emerged as the most respected church leader in Jerusalem.

•     James reminds us that leadership in the church is earned, not passed on from father to son. It was not James’s relationship with Jesus but his commitment to Jesus that won him respect.

•     James demonstrates collegial leadership. In the Jerusalem council, he did not impose a decision but rather summarized the consensus worked through by all.

•     James exhorts us to live out our faith and makes it plain that a “faith” that does not produce works is dead—mere intellectual assent rather than a heart-felt commitment to Jesus Christ.


[1]Richards, Larry: Every Man in the Bible. Nashville : T. Nelson, 1999, S. 212

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