I am writing to the “twelve tribes”—Jewish believers scattered abroad.
Twelve Tribes of Israel (click on the link to learn more about the twelve tribes)
Who was James?
The epistle (letter) of James was written by James, the half brother of Jesus who had become a believer after Jesus’ resurrection and developed into the central leader in the church of Jerusalem. It is important for the student of the Bible to realize the context in which James was writing. Inspired by the Holy Spirit AND applicable to believers today as much as the believers to whom James wrote, understanding both the person of James and the book of James are important.
Imagine with me for a moment that you are a small child with a half-brother. You grow up alongside this brother knowing something may be different about him but for the most part he fits right in the family unit doing the same things the other children do and participating in the same faith with the rest of the family members. Over time you notice changes occur in your half-brother and you observe his zealousness for learning the Law and the Prophets writings then he begins speaking authoritatively about being the “Son of God.” Imagine what Jesus’ family went through during their path to believing he was who he said. This is illustrated in the various testimonies by the gospel writers as listed below.
While James grew up in the same house with Jesus in Nazareth, he was miles apart from Jesus’ thinking for the early part of his life.
James did not grow up a believer (John 7:5). Though Jesus and James had the same mother, Jesus was the son not of Joseph, as James was, but of God the Father Himself—a fact that wouldn’t fully sink into James’ mind for years. It wasn’t until Jesus’ resurrection and His appearance to James and the disciples that James finally really understood who his half brother was. After Jesus’ instructions recorded in Acts 1:4, James accompanied the apostles, the women who had followed Jesus, his mother and his brothers to the upper room, where they prayed and waited patiently for the gift of the Holy Spirit (verse 14). James was present when God sent the Holy Spirit to the small group, at which point the New Testament Church was born (Acts 1:14; 2:1). From Jesus’ resurrection on, James gave himself entirely to God and soon became an important figure in the early Church. His role was so important that Peter told others to report to James of his miraculous release from prison (Acts 12:17; Galatians 1:19). He apparently became the overseeing pastor of the Jerusalem church, because in Acts 15:13-21 we see him making the final declaration during this early ministerial conference. The apostle Paul, after his conversion, met with Peter and James before seeing any of the other apostles (Galatians 1:18-19). Later we see James advising Paul, and Paul then acting on that advice (Acts 21:18-26)
THE FAMILY OF JESUSJesus grew up in a sizable family that included four half brothers—James, Joses, Simon and Judas (who would later write the epistle of Jude)—and “His sisters,” showing there were at least two (Matthew 13:55-56).
Because the names of Christ’s brothers are passed down to us in their Greek forms, it’s easy to lose sight of how typically Jewish Jesus’ family was. Jesus Himself was Jewish (Hebrew 7:14), because both Mary and Joseph were descended from the Israelite tribe of Judah (Matthew 1:1-16: Luke 3:23- 38). Jesus’ Hebrew name Yeshua (or Joshua)—the same as the Israelite hero who conquered the Promised Land—means “God is salvation” (see Matthew 1:21).
The name of Jesus’ mother, Mary, is a shortened form of Miriam , the sister of Moses and Aaron. Joseph ( Yosef in Hebrew), Jesus’ stepfather, was ultimately named for the Hebrew patriarch Joseph , one of the 12 sons of Jacob and father of the Israelite tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh.
As for Jesus’ half brothers, James is the anglicized Greek form of the Hebrew Ya’akov, or Jacob, the same name as that of the Hebrew patriarch who was the son of Isaac and the grandson of Abraham. Joses is another form of Joseph. Simon’s Hebrew name was Simeon, the name of another of Jacob’s sons and father of one of the 12 tribes of Israel.
The Hebrew name of Judas (or Jude) was Yehudah (rendered Judah in English), the name of another of Jacob’s 12 sons, from which the word Jew is derived. The popularity of these names is evident in that all of them are used, often repeatedly, for other people mentioned in the New Testament.
For those of you wanting a more in depth study listen to the video posted below on the Essenes. The Essenes were also known as the “Nazarenes” and John the Baptist was said to be born from this strict Jewish sect. You draw your own conclusions, but I want to extend the information to you and we can discuss more in depth later if you wish. Feel free to post any questions you may have.