James 1

Trials and Temptations

Brother of Jesus

James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ (James 1:1).

Most believe that the writer of the book of James is James the half-brother of Jesus—the son of Mary and Joseph. Jesus grew up in Nazareth, and presumably His brothers did as well. The large building in the center of this aerial photo is the modern Church of the Annunciation, marking the approximate location of the traditional place where the angel announced the impending birth of Jesus to Mary.


Count it all joy, my brothers, when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance (James 1:2-3).

The word “testing,” (Gk. dokimion) has a wide range of use, including testing itself (as in 1:3), the way in which something is tested, or the resultant diagnosis or condition of something as “tested” or genuine. It is often used to describe the purity of metals. This picture of a 1st century AD golden beaker provides an illustration of solid gold (cf. 1 Pet 1:7). This beaker was photographed at the Getty Villa.

Testing vs. Tempting

Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God” (James 1:13)

God often “tested” people, but He never induced them to do evil. God tested Abraham to see if he would obey Him and sacrifice his beloved son Isaac on the mountains of Moriah (Gen 22; cf. Heb 11:17). The place traditionally identified as the place where Abraham offered up Isaac is the stone outcropping in the center of this photo, located under the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem.

Jesus's Temptation

God cannot be tempted with evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone (James 1:13).

Jesus Himself was tempted by the devil but was not shown to be susceptible to sin. “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil” (Matt 4:1, LSB). The so-called “Mount of Temptation,” located just to the west of Jericho, is a place traditionally associated with this event.

Hearing and Doing

But be doers of the word, and not just hearers who delude themselves . . . He is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror (James 1:22-23).

In the ancient world, mirrors (Gk. esoptron) were generally made of polished bronze, although some were also made of silver. Numerous bronze mirrors from antiquity have been recovered. They usually have a round face which was originally highly polished, and they typically have an integrated handle. This mirror from Egypt’s 18th-dynasty (circa 1400 BC) has been polished in the modern period, giving some idea of how it would have looked in antiquity.

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