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
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.)
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.