Day 39: 1&2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews, James

The last of these epistles (James) is generally regarded as the earliest book in the New Testament. It was probably written by James, Jesus’ half brother, in about AD 46 – less than 20 years after the Crucifixion, Resurrection and Ascension of Christ.

From our 21st century standpoint, the remarkable thing about these letters (and most especially that of James) is that they are written BY witnesses (or not more than 2nd or 3rd hand witnesses) of Christ’s ministry and sacrifice TO witnesses (or 2nd or 3rd hand witnesses) – to a very early Church, but already large enough to have organisational and theological problems.

The three synoptic Gospels were written in the 50s and 60s and we cannot say how widely and fully they were distributed in the early Church. What Paul and Barnabas (probably the author of the letter to the Hebrews) and James were trying to do was to provide a firm basis for the embryonic Churches of the third quarter of the century to build on. We should understand this as we read them.

In these letters, Paul tells Timothy that God exhorts him and rewards his servants; Titus that God commends sound teaching; Philemon that God values human dignity. Barnabas tells his audience of the supremacy of Christ – certified by God. James extols faith that works.

Often shallowly considered as contradicting Paul’s teaching that faith is all, James is, in fact, extrapolating from the identical belief. Paul says that works without faith is not enough. Faith alone is absolutely necessary to salvation. James says that faith without works is not faith at all! Perhaps St Francis finds the formula for us all with his invitation to his disciples to ‘Go out and preach the Gospel – and, if necessary use words’.

Keith Macleod

Read the Bible on line at Bible Study Tools. Today’s passage (NRSV) is here:


2 Responses

  1. Thanks for that Keith, It’s so important not to take bible verses out of context. Then as preachers, how vital that our lives mirror what we say. If we talk the talk, but don’t walk the walk, our message is unlikely to be taken seriously.
    Every Blessing in Jesus,

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