Lesson One
Overview

      If you are like most people when you receive an important letter, you probably read it straight through first to see what the writer has to say in general.  After that, you may go back to examine particular sections more closely.  This is just the way to study a biblical letter.  In this lesson, you'll take a broad overview of James's epistle to lay the groundwork for detailed study in future lessons.
   
      1.James is an elder of the church in Jerusalem, a
      man who knew Jesus well during His earthly life
      and who saw Him after His resurrection.  As a
      Christian in some distant province of the Roman
      Empire, you have probably never met James.  Still,
      he cares enough about you to send some of the
      truths he thinks are crucial to Christian life.  Read
      his letter through at one sitting.  If possible, read it
      twice in different translations.  Say some of it aloud
      to hear how it sounds.  You may want to keep
      questions 2 through 6 in mind as you read, but wait
      until afterward to write the answers.

      2. What are your first impressions of the book?  (For
      instance, how is it organized - tightly, loosely,
      without connections between topics ...?  What is
      James's tone - humorous, harsh, friendly, dry,
      passionate, humble, arrogant, authoritative?  How
      does he feel about his readers and his topics?)
                                                                                
                                                                                
                                                                                
                                                                                
                                                                                
                                                                                

      3. Repetition is a clue to the ideas a writer wants to
      emphasize.  What words and ideas does James
      repeat?
                                                                                
                                                                                
                                                                                
                                                                                
                                                                                

      4. Think of a short phrase or sentence that can serve
      as a title for each section of the letter.  (The division
      below are suggestions.  Feel free to change them.)
      1:1                                                                      
      1:2-18                                                                 
                                                                                
      1:19-27                                                                
                                                                                
      2:1-13                                                                 
                                                                                
      2:14-26                                                               
                                                                                
      3:1-12                                                                 
                                                                                
      3:13-18                                                               
                                                                                
      4:1-10                                                                 
                                                                                
      4:11-12                                                               
                                                                                
      4:13-17                                                                
                                                                                
      5:1-6                                                                   
                                                                                
      5:7-12                                                                 
                                                                                
      5:13-20                                                                
                                                                                

      5. How would you describe James's purpose(s) for
      writing this letter?  (Is he teaching doctrine, exhorting
      someone to action, giving warnings or rebukes, telling
      about himself, offering personal comfort or
      encouragement ... ?)
                                                                                
                                                                                
                                                                                
                                                                                
                                                                                

      6.  Some people find no single theme in this letter,
      while others do see a theme running through all his
      words.  What phrase or sentence would you use to
      summarize what James is saying?
                                                                                
                                                                                
                                                                                
                                                                                

                         Study Skill - Overviews
You will probably find overviews enormously helpful when you study books of the Bible on your own.  You can use this lesson as a model for your own overviews.  Include the following steps:
      1. Read the whole book at least once, preferable in one sitting. (This may be hard with long books.)
      2. Jot down your first impressions, such as the author's tone of voice, his attitudes toward his readers and himself, how he organizes his message, and how he presents his message (stories, pictures, instructions, descriptions of people or events, poetry, logical reasoning, etc.).
      3. Sketch a broad outline of the book by giving titles to major sections. (You can compare your titles to those in some study Bibles, handbooks, and commentaries.)
      4. Write down as many repeated words and ideas you can find.  (Of course, don't bother with words like the or and).
      5. Decide what you think is the author's purpose for writing.
      6. State what you think are the themes of the book - the main ideas that the author is trying to get across.

            JAMES (LIFECHANGE SERIES)  NAVPRESS, 1988.







































FOR THOUGHT AND DISCUSSION: OBSERVE JAMES'S USE OF PICTURE WORDS ("MIST," "CORRODED," "FRESH WATER AND SALT WATER," ETC.). HOW DO THESE VIVID WORDS CONTRIBUTE TO HIS MESSAGE?















FOR FURTHER STUDY: COMPARE JAMES'S ATTITUDE TOWARD GOD'S LAW TO THE ONE DESCRIBED IN PSALM 119:97-104. WHAT SIMILARITIES DO YOU SEE?