What Is a General Epistle?
The book of James is the first of seven letters known as the general epistles. They are so named because they were written to a more general audience than Paul’s epistles, which were addressed to individuals or congregations (see Bible Dictionary, “general epistles,” p. 678).
Who Was James?
James is the Greek name for the Hebrew Jacob, and was a common name in the New Testament. Some others named James were James, the brother of John the Beloved, who was a member of the First Presidency with Peter and John, and James, the son of Alphaeus, who was another of Jesus’ Twelve Apostles. The author of this letter was James the Just. He was the brother of Jesus and served as the bishop of the Church in Jerusalem (see Bible Dictionary, “James,” p. 709; James E. Talmage, The Great Apostasy , p. 62).
James was privileged to see the resurrected Lord (see 1 Corinthians 15:7). He was faithful to the gospel throughout his life. Tradition states that he was executed about A.D. 63 by those who demanded that he denounce his beliefs. This epistle is believed to have been written around A.D. 50.
What Did James Teach?
James taught that true Christianity requires a life of righteous works and service. The test of being a follower of Jesus is in daily righteousness and acts of kindness. James taught that such acts are evidence of our faith in Jesus Christ.