“James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad: Greetings” (James 1:1).
In the New Testament there are four men associated with Jesus who were named “James” —the Greek version of Hebrew’s “Jacob”. They are: the apostle called James the Less (Matthew 10:3; Acts 1:13); James the father of the apostle Judas, not Iscariot (Luke 6:16; Acts 1:13); the apostle James, a son of Zebedee and brother of the apostle John (Matthew 4:21); and James the half-brother of Jesus (Mark 6:3).
The most reasonable guess concerning who authored this epistle would be the James who grew up in Nazareth as a younger sibling of Jesus. Though an unbeliever in Jesus prior to His crucifixion (John 7:5), he was a witness of His resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:7) and became His bond-servant (James 1:1). Fifteen times in this epistle, he addresses his readers as “brethren”.
Identified as “the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad”, the original recipients were Jewish Christians whose lives had been turned upside down by the havoc Saul of Tarsus wreaked when he greatly persecuted the church (Acts 8:1-3).
Those men and women who were not dragged out of their homes and committed to prison were scattered from Jerusalem and went everywhere preaching the word (Acts 8:4). Though they had fled their earthly abodes, they had not abandoned their heavenly citizenship. Therefore, James wrote to them.
Quite possibly, this instructive and challenging letter was the first written book of the New Testament.