The Book of James

The Book of James is a short, but powerful book. Learn a bit more from The Swindoll Study Bible about who wrote the book, the original audience, and why it’s important.

“So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.”

James 2:17, NLT

Taken from The Swindoll Study Bible

Who Wrote the Book?
While he does not specifically identify himself as Jesus’ brother in the letter, the author of the book of James is widely thought to be the James who was the brother of our Lord. It appears that James was not a follower of Jesus during the Savior’s time on earth (Mark 3:21-35), but eventually he became an apostle after seeing the Lord post-Resurrection (1 Cor. 15:7; Gal. 1:19). Upon witnessing the Lord in His resurrected body, James came to believe that Jesus was the Messiah and later became one of the leaders of the church in Jerusalem. Peter singled him out among the other Christians there after Peter’s own miraculous release from prison (Acts 12:17). In addition, James made the deciding speech at the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15:13-21), and Paul called him one of the “pillars of the church” (Gal. 2:9).

Where Are We?
As one of the chief leaders in the church at Jerusalem, James wrote from that city prior to the meeting of the Jerusalem Council, the account of which is recorded in Acts 15. At that council, James, along with Peter and Paul, affirmed the decision to take the gospel message to the Gentiles. This council met in ad 49, meaning that James likely wrote his letter between ad 45 and ad 49. Such a significant event as the Jerusalem Council would have warranted comment from James, especially because he was writing to a Jewish-Christian audience. But in the letter James makes no mention of Gentile Christians at all, so an early date for the letter seems most likely.

Why Is James So Important?
The book of James looks a bit like the Old Testament book of Proverbs dressed up in New Testament clothes. Its consistent focus on practical action in the life of faith is reminiscent of the Wisdom Literature of the Old Testament in the way that it encourages God’s people to act like God’s people. The pages of James are filled with direct commands, and he makes no excuses for those who do not walk their talk. In the mind of this early church leader, Christians evidence their faith by walking in certain ways and not others. According to James, faith must produce real life change (Jas. 2:17).

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Jesus Is Coming

“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this message for the churches. I am both the source of David and the heir to his throne. I am the bright morning star.” Revelation 22:16, NLT

Taken from the Wayfinding Bible

In Revelation 22:16, Jesus clearly identifies himself and ties the past to the future. Long ago God promised his people that a star would come from Jacob (Numbers 24:17). To Isaiah he promised that a shoot would come from “the stump of David’s family” (Isaiah 11:1). When Jesus walked the earth, people knew he was the son of David (Matthew 22:42). What was promised so many centuries before has come true. In one statement, Jesus unites thousands of years of prophecies and history.

John’s thinking and writing were steeped in the Old Testament. The book of Revelation adopts imagery that appears everywhere from Genesis to Malachi. Understanding the meaning of these images in the Old Testament can help make sense of what John meant in Revelation. Check out the graphic below from the Wayfinding Bible to see the connection of Revelation imagery to the Old Testament.

Wayfinding Bible
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Run to Win

“Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win!” 1 Corinthians 9:24, NLT

Devotional from the Beyond Suffering Bible

Using the metaphor of running a race, the apostle Paul instructed the church in Corinth to be disciplined in the way they live their lives as believers. They
were to run with purpose, knowing their reward would be imperishable and eternal.

In his sovereignty, God has given each one of us a race to run. For Paul, that meant purposefully living in a way that would help bring the Good News to as many people as possible. However, that race will look different for each person. For example, Brandon, a young man with Angelman Syndrome, shows great perseverance in running his unique race. Because of his disability, Brandon experiences anxiety in social settings, which makes each step of going from home to school seem like running a marathon. Going out the front door, walking to meet the school bus, getting off the bus in a parking lot filled with many students, going through the school entrance, and finally walking into the classroom is the race Brandon runs each morning with perseverance.

For a person with a disability, the race may entail going to many, many breathing treatments. For parents of children with special needs, the race may include countless doctor’s appointments and therapy sessions. The daily race for people with physical impairments can mean a several-hours-long morning routine of getting dressed and preparing for the day ahead.

We do not run our race in vain. Christ is present with us, and we are surrounded by a “huge crowd of witnesses” (Heb 12:1). In the body of Christ
we are called to cheer each other on. We run the race with Brandon and the many others involved in managing disabilities who may grow weary and lose hope. We celebrate each victory, no matter how small, as we run with endurance the unique race set before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, who “because of the joy awaiting him . . . endured the cross” (Heb 12:2).


Take a look inside the Beyond Suffering Bible

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Is God Okay with Celebrations?

“Then King David was told, ‘The Lord has blessed Obed-edom’s household and everything he has because of the Ark of God.’ So David went there and brought the Ark of God from the house of Obed-edom to the City of David with a great celebration. After the men who were carrying the Ark of the Lord had gone six steps, David sacrificed a bull and a fattened calf. And David danced before the Lord with all his might, wearing a priestly garment. So David and all the people of Israel brought up the Ark of the Lord with shouts of joy and the blowing of rams’ horns.” 2 Samuel 6:12-15, NLT.

Sometimes when we think of God, we think only of reverence, justice, and even seriousness. And God is all those things, but God is also the true source of joy. He loves when his children come to him in praise and thanksgiving. In fact, celebrations were built into the law that God gave to the people of Israel.

Read this article from the NLT Study Bible describing David’s celebration in 2 Samuel 6 when the Ark of the Covenant was returned to Jerusalem.

It took two attempts for David to bring the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem (6:1-11, 12-23). In the second attempt, there was a notable change in David’s mode of celebrating. Three Hebrew terms for “danced/dancing” are found in the account of the second procession of the ark (see also 1 Chr 15:25-29): karar (6:14, 16), pazaz (NLT, “leaping,” 6:16), and raqad (1 Chr 15:29, “skipping about”). All three words refer to vigorous physical expression beyond the meaning of the Hebrew term for “celebrate” (6:5). Thus, in the first procession, David celebrated; in the second procession he engaged in exultant dancing and extravagant merrymaking with intensified musical expression through the addition of shouting and trumpets.

Musical instruments played a significant role in Temple worship. In 1 Chr 25, David assigned various groups to the ministry of music. Many Psalms refer to playing musical instruments in praise and worship of God (see Ps 33:2-3; 57:8; 81:2; 92:1-3; 98:4-6). In Ps 149 and 150, dance and music are combined as a praise offering. Similarly, music and dancing were heard in the father’s house in the parable of the lost son (Luke 15:25), as the son’s return was truly a joyful occasion.

All these instances demonstrate that God welcomes exuberant expressions of joy and delight from those who worship and praise him (Isa 30:29; Jer 30:19; 31:13; Zeph 3:17; Eph 5:19; Col 3:16).

Take a Look Inside the NLT Study Bible:

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Prophecies about Christ

Note from the Christian Basics Bible

In chapters 53 and 61, two of Isaiah’s most famous chapters, Isaiah saw the coming Messiah with amazing clarity, about seven hundred years before he came.

Chapter 53 foresees the Messiah’s death—a death that would not only be a sacrifice but also a substitution—it is our griefs and sorrows he carried (53:4), our rebellion and sins he paid for (53:5-6), not his own. Through this death, people are healed (53:5)—brought into God’s wholeness (shalom). The prophecy also has many details about Christ’s final hours: how he was oppressed, was treated harshly, remained silent, and was buried in a rich man’s grave. But Isaiah saw that it would not all end in death; he anticipated Christ’s resurrection (53:10-11) and exaltation (53:12), which would enable him to “make it possible for many to be counted righteous” (53:11) because of the way that he “bore the sins of many” (53:12).


Chapter 61 foresees the Spirit-anointed nature of the Messiah’s work. Jesus quoted from this passage in the synagogue at the start of his ministry (Luke 4:18-19), declaring that “the Scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day!” (Luke 4:21), thus making it clear that he saw himself as the Servant that Isaiah had prophesied.

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Making Courageous Changes

Social media posts reek of fake paradise. When asked, “how are you?” we respond, “fine” or “good.” We mask our hurts, hide our pain, and try to bury our fears and discomfort because we think being real exposes our weaknesses. We often feel we don’t live up to what others expect, that our walk with Jesus is something less than desired, or we aren’t filled with the joy of the Lord because our reality isn’t perfectly sunny.

For years Ann White, founder of Courage for Life (CFL), walked this road every day.

“As a child I learned to turn a blind eye and pretend everything in life was perfect, even when it was far from it. I grew up learning not to rock the boat, and I carried that dysfunctional coping mechanism into all of my adult relationships, particularly into my marriage. Finding courage to change these bad habits took me a long time,” said Ann.

For 20 years she would take her Bible to church and bring it back, rarely opening it. Her idea of being a Christian was going to church and trying to be good. The word discipleship was just about Jesus’ first followers and had no meaning for her. But when she hit rock bottom and the fake contentment was shattered, God opened her eyes to how broken she was. In desperation she cried out, not for a soother but a Savior. (for more on Ann’s personal story you can read her book Courage for Life.

“We try to fix everything ourselves, but I knew I couldn’t fix this. I needed total guidance from God. His Word brought me to a point where I could truly be strong and courageous—the end of my old self and beginning of my new self in him. I could finally say, ‘I’m messed up and that’s okay,’” said Ann.

She started getting into God’s Word every day. She was starving and thirsting for it. Her own strength was barely holding life together, but the foundation of God’s Word kept her from falling into despair. With God’s help and wisdom her husband came alongside, and together they faced the realities that were hiding behind their painted-on smiles and the façade they had created.

“When God saves your life, and your 26-year marriage, you want tell everyone about it. The Lord told me to birth a ministry, to reach out to women so they, too, could find their grounding and courage in God’s Word,” said Ann.

Ann obeyed God’s call, birthed CFL and started creating resources for women. She initially thought they would be taught in churches, but as she continued to follow God’s leading, the ministry grew. Around the world, CFL resources are helping women find their identity in Christ. From church groups to brothels and prisons, women are moving from fear to faith and through Christ are able to make courageous choices that bring change into their own lives and the lives of those around them.

“God is working miracles. Kathy Urbanick, our ministry director for CFL, was working with women in a local prison. She said to me, ‘I am blown away. These girls are leaning into the Lord, they are inspired to make courageous changes.’ So, we decided to make an 8-week study guide with women’s prison ministry in mind. It helps women find a life full of confidence, hope, and opportunity through studying God’s Word. And there is no better translation to study that speaks right to the heart than the New Living Translation (NLT),” said Ann.

“When we first thought about providing an audio Bible, we knew it would need to be in a woman’s voice. Since abuse and trauma are common occurrences in at-risk women’s lives, a man’s voice can cause them to relive horrific memories from their past by reminding them of their abusers. We knew we needed an audio Bible that would be like a mother, grandmother, or sister reading to you. We didn’t want anything to distract from the comfort and peace God’s Word brings,” said Ann.

In searching for this resource, they discovered that very few exist. Ann again heard God calling her out of her comfort zone to start a new project. Twelve women from different ethnicities, ages, and backgrounds came together to voice the first-ever all-women-narrated Bible app.

“As we were finishing this project we started talking to the prisons about it, and God confirmed that ‘for such a time as this’ the app was needed. Many of our state’s prisons have started giving women tablets filled with positive content. What better positive message is there than the Word of God?” said Ann.

But it wasn’t for the women alone. The prisons asked if they could upload it to the men’s tablets as well. With many children raised by a single mom, grandma, or aunt, men who have had negative experiences with their fathers and other men also respond better to women’s voices. It’s a vital reminder of someone in their lives who spoke encouragement and love. Two states are currently in the process of uploading the women’s NLT audio Bible—to 53,000 tablets in one state and over 30,000 in another. And the numbers continue to grow.

“When God called me, I never thought I would be working in jails or creating an audio Bible, but God’s passion is for everyone to be drawn to him, and this my passion too. My greatest prayer is that everyone will get into God’s Word. According to extensive research by Back to the Bible, if we are reading God’s Word four or more times a week, it changes our patterns, our behavior, our attitudes; it will change a culture,” said Ann.

Many at-risk women relive their mistakes over and over, judging themselves and drifting into despair. Even while in the dark night of the soul, Kathy has seen miraculous transformation when women read the NLT. The negative self-talk is replaced with God’s words of love and hope.

“Many of these women have been told and are treated as though they are less than nothing. They feel they are worthless and that there is no hope. The beautiful thing about the NLT is that it is uses gender-inclusive language. Women can see themselves right in the text, learn to believe God loves them in a very personal way,” said Kathy. “As they read it they can see women in Christ’s lineage, that Christ and Paul had encouraging and positive relationships with women. If they read it and hear it in a way they can understand, they can replace the lies the world has told them with the truth of Scripture.”

Learn more about Courage for Life and the first Audio Bible app fully voiced by women.

How to Do a Word Study

The Bible wasn’t written in any modern day language, but it was written in every day languages of the times. For many of us ancient Greek and Hebrew can seem sacred or special, but for the people in biblical times it was what they spoke every day. Since most of us don’t speak either of those languages we rely on translations to help us read God’s Word in our own every day language. But it can be exciting to dig into the original language and gain a personal understanding of the words of the Bible.  Our Slimline Center Column Reference Bibles offer you just that opportunity. They include over 200 Hebrew and Greek word studies throughout the Bible text. These word studies give readers a glimpse into the inner workings of the New Living Translation and open a small window to the original languages of the Bible.


How to Do Word Studies with the Slimline Center Column Reference Bible

While reading through the Bible text, you will find at various places a superscript letter attached to the front of an English word. In the cross-reference column, there is a transliteration of the Hebrew or Greek word or phrase that underlies the translation at that point, along with the Strong’s number(s) in parentheses and the location of the next reference in that Hebrew or Greek word chain. If you follow the reference chain, eventually you will read through all of the marked instances of that word or group of words in the entire study Bible. Doing so is a good way to begin doing Hebrew and Greek word studies.

Another way to use the tool is to systematically study a particular word from those listed in an NLT Slimline Center Column Reference Bible. In these Bibles we have listed and defined all of the words that are included in the Hebrew and Greek word-study chains. The references in the chains are selective and do not represent all of the places where a Hebrew or Greek word occurs in the Bible; we chose a limited number of instances in order to show the variety of usage for a given term or group of terms. If you want to do a complete study of a biblical word, it would be a good idea to read most or all instances, which you can find with Strong’s Concordance or a similar tool.

You can take your study of Hebrew and Greek words further by obtaining a copy of Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. Dr. James Strong first published his exhaustive concordance of the King James Version in 1890, and the system he created for referring to every individual word in Hebrew and Greek by a number has been tremendously helpful for English readers who want to do word studies in the original languages. The Strong’s numbering system has become the de facto standard for English language word-study tools. There is a wide variety of other publications and software tools available with which you can take your study of any Hebrew or Greek term further.

The dictionary and index in an NLT Slimline Center Column Reference Bible is organized using the Strong’s numbering system, named for the system used in Strong’s Concordance. For any word you find while reading the text, you will simply have to use the Strong’s number to find the brief definition and full chain. Please note that there are separate numbers and lists for the Hebrew words in the OT and the Greek words in the NT.

If you follow the entire word chain, note each context in which the word occurs and how it has been translated. You will get a good feel for the range of uses that each word can have, and you will get a unique glimpse into the inner workings of the NLT.

Hebrew and Greek Word Studies

Because the Bible was originally written in ancient languages that are quite different from our own, the Hebrew and Greek words of the original text are often seen as strange and wonderful. Sometimes, Greek and Hebrew words are portrayed as though they are somehow a special or “divine” language containing more significant meaning than normal languages like English. In truth, biblical Greek and Hebrew are normal human languages, with words that are similar to the words of any language.

Words are complex animals. Consider, for example, the word animal in the previous sentence. In most contexts, that word conjures up images of wildlife. In this particular instance, however, it means something quite different. Words have a dynamic relationship to meaning, neither confined to a dictionary entry nor free to mean anything at all. Few readers whose mother tongue is English would have misunderstood the meaning of the sentence, “Words are complex animals,” but it could certainly cause confusion for a reader whose knowledge of English is minimal.

When confronted with a word from any foreign language, especially an ancient one like the Hebrew or Greek of the Bible, people can misunderstand if they aren’t careful to study the word in a way that makes sense with how language is used. Some common mistakes that are made in studying words in the biblical languages include the following:

  • Assuming a word means more than it does. When faced with the range of meanings a given word can have, sometimes interpreters are tempted to think that every instance of that word contains all of the possible meanings. While it is true that sometimes a writer will purposefully use a word to mean more than one thing, it is not common. Normally, a word has one meaning in a given context. For instance, the Hebrew zera‘ (2233) can mean “seed” or “offspring,” but only rarely would both meanings apply to one specific use of the word. An important part of original-language Bible study is to discern which meaning a term probably has in a given context.
  • Understanding words by their roots. Many words share common roots, but this does not necessarily mean their meanings are related. The meaning of a word is related to how it is used in the language, not where it came from. The Greek ekkle¯sia (1577) comes from two words that mean “to call” (kale¯o) and “out of” (ek). This does not mean that ekkle¯sia means “called out of,” any more than the English word goodbye means “it’s good that you’re leaving.” It is important to understand the meaning of the word from its usage rather than its roots.
  • Confusing synonyms. Many words share common meanings, or at least have very similar meanings in specific contexts. An example in English is “choose” and “select.” In many cases, the difference is negligible, and a writer could choose between them without changing the meaning at all. But in some contexts the selection is meaningful. In this tool, we sometimes string synonyms together in a single chain, but that does not mean they are completely interchangeable. Each word must be considered on its own terms in each context.
  • Failing to appreciate the difference between words and concepts. Words are only tools to communicate meaning, so any one word will never be sufficient to get a complete picture of an important concept. If you want to understand the concept of “truth” in the Bible, Hebrew ’emeth (0571) is a good place to start, but to limit study to a word alone will miss important components of the biblical picture of truth. Each concept must be studied as whole, going beyond the study of words.

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