When you read the letter of James, does the thought bubble up in your mind: “I’ve heard this before”? Does it remind you of something you’ve heard or read elsewhere?
Probably so, and for good reason, namely the fact that there are many similarities between James’ letter and what we commonly refer to as the “Sermon on the Mount.” Consider the following (without any claims to this being a comprehensive listing):
- James 1:2 (cf. Matt. 5:10-12)
- James 1:4 (cf. Matt. 5:48)
- James 1:5 (cf. Matt. 7:7-9)
- James 1:17 (cf. Matt. 7:11)
- James 1:20 (cf. Matt. 5:22)
- James 1:22-25 (cf. Matt. 7:24-27)
- James 1:23 (cf. Matt. 7:26)
- James 2:5 (cf. Matt. 5:3,5)
- James 2:10 (cf. Matt. 5:18-19)
- James 2:11 (cf. Matt. 5:21-22)
- James 2:13 (cf. Matt. 5:7; 6:14-15; 7:1)
- James 2:14-16 (cf. Matt. 7:21-23)
- James 2:15 (cf. Matt. 6:25)
- James 3:12 (cf. Matt. 7:16-18)
- James 3:13 (cf. (Matt. 5:3)
- James 3:17-18 (cf. Matt. 5:5,9)
- James 4:2-3 (cf. Matt. 7:7-8)
- James 4:4 (cf. Matt. 6:24)
- James 4:8 (cf. Matt. 5:8; 6:22)
- James 4:9 (cf. Matt. 5:4)
- James 4:10 (cf. Matt. 5:5)
- James 4:11-12 (cf. Matt. 5:22; 7:1-2)
- James 4:13-14 (cf. Matt. 6:34)
- James 5:2-3 (cf. Matt. 6:19-21)
- James 5:6 (cf. Matt. 7:1)
- James 5:9 (cf. Matt. 5:22; 7:1)
- James 5:10 cf. Matt. 5:11-12)
- James 5:12 (cf. Matt. 5:34-37)
While James never directly quotes the Sermon on the Mount, he does pick up a number of the Sermon’s themes and he peppers his letter with words and phrases found in the Sermon. It’s difficult to compare the passages above and not come away with the distinct impression that the James who penned this letter wasn’t very familiar with the teachings and wording of the Sermon on the Mount.
Hmmm. James sounds like Jesus.
Could it be because the author of James very well could have been Jesus’ half-brother?
Could it be because James was trying hard to build his life and teaching around whatever Jesus said, especially as they faced similar issues?
Could it be that when the reputed pillar of the church put his pen to parchment in a letter from where the gospel of the risen Christ was first preached to believers scattered everywhere, he knew he could do no better than to call believers back to the concerns and words of the risen Lord himself?