Study Guide

James, 1-2 Peter, Jude

James, 1-2 Peter, Jude Introduction

Imagine you're dead.

We know. It's not fun, but just humor us for a second.

Imagine you're dead, and your family and friends want to write a book about you. What kinds of stuff do you think they would say? Maybe your sister would have a wacky story about how you used to dress up your Barbies like astronauts? Or your best friend would tell everyone about that one time you stuck French fries up your nose and pretended to be a walrus. Or maybe something way more scandalous.

With James, 1-2 Peter, and Jude, we've got four letters from Jesus' nearest and dearest.

  • James and Jude were his brothers—bet they have some fond memories to share about playing catch with little J.C. next to the Sea of Galilee. 
  • Peter was Jesus' BFF, so you know he's got the inside track on everything Jesus-related. His favorite hangout. His hobbies. Hidden talents. You know, aside from changing water into wine.

But oddly enough, none of these letters say anything even close to that. These three guys are much more concerned about the day-to-day life of Christians in the years after Jesus' death. James, Peter, and Jude have plenty to say about what folks should do (love each other), who they should avoid (false teachers are such trouble makers), and when the world is gonna end (any day now). But they don't throw in too many intimate details about their bro and best friend, Jesus. Seriously, no one even once mentions Jesus' childhood pet, Droolius Caesar.

Why? Well, some scholars think that these books weren't necessarily penned by Jesus' inner circle. They might have been written by other followers of Jesus after his main disciples died off. Or they could have been produced by other guys with the same names. Or maybe some dude just wrote a bunch of stuff down and pretended that James, Peter, and Jude were the authors. Unauthorized ghostwriting was a surprisingly popular trend in the first century.

But even if these books weren't written by Jesus' friends and family, that doesn't mean they're not valuable in their own right. Our authors—whoever they are—have included loads of thoughts on what it means to follow God and be a good person.

Go ahead and read, and then join the conversation.

What is James, 1-2 Peter, Jude About and Why Should I Care?

Everyone needs good advice.

That's why we have folks like Miss Manners, Dear Abby, and Dan Savage hanging around. Life is confusing. And it's always nice to make decisions with the help of total strangers.

If you're looking for some really solid direction in life, you might want to "Ask the Bible Guys." Back in the first century, there were no agony aunts to help guide faithful readers through life. But James, Peter, and Jude come pretty close. These three guys doled out so much advice to fellow Christians, that you might mistake them for Ann Landers. Just take a look at some of their most famous letters:

Dear Bible Guys,

I was recently arrested for my faith. Now I have to appear in court. I love Jesus, but he's making everything so complicated. Should I ditch him before he totally ruins my life?

— Suffering in Syria

Dear Suffering,

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you are sharing Christ's sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory, which is the Spirit of God, is resting on you.

Yours in Christ,
The Bible Guys

*****

Dear Bible Guys,

I believe in God and obey his laws. But I'm not so big on doing stuff for others. Poor people make me uncomfortable. Plus, they smell funny. I think I can just put my faith in God and leave the good works to other suckers—er, Christians. Is that okay?

— Faithful in Philippi

Dear Faithful,

What good is it if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and you say to them, "Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill," and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? You senseless person! Faith without works is dead.

Yours in Christ,
The Bible Guys

*****

Dear Bible Guys,

Some of my friends say the end of the world isn't coming. Should I listen to them and go back to my godless, pagan ways? I sure do miss those weekend orgies.

— Doubtful in Damascus

Dear Doubtful,

Your friends are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm; for them the deepest darkness has been reserved. For they speak bombastic nonsense, and with licentious desires of the flesh they entice people who have just escaped from those who live in error. You have already spent enough time in doing what the Gentiles like to do, living in passions, drunkenness, revels, carousing, and lawless idolatry. Be patient, beloved, until the coming of the Lord.

Yours in Christ,
The Bible Guys

Still got questions? Open up these four epistles to get some answers.

James, 1-2 Peter, Jude Resources

Websites

St. Peter's Basilica
Even if he didn't really write those Bible books, Peter is still a pretty big deal. This incredible church located in Vatican City is named for Jesus' right-hand man, and it's also said to be the final resting place of his bones. We'd say they got the Peter-loving market cornered.

Movie or TV Priductions

The Big Fisherman
A movie about the life of Peter after the death of Jesus. Oh, the adventures!

James, Brother of Jesus
This Discovery Channel special, which aired in 2004, presented evidence about a tomb found in Israel that some claim belonged to James himself. One of the guys who found the tomb was later arrested charged with forgery. Even if the tomb was for real, most scholars agree that there's no way of really knowing if it was actually James's final resting place.

Left Behind: The Movie
Staring born-again Christian actor Kirk Cameron, this movie portrays a modern-day, biblically-inspired end of the world. James, Peter, and Jude would definitely be buying tickets to see this.

Historical Documents

The Epistle of James
The New Revised Standard Version of this letter-rific biblical classic.

The First Epistle of Peter
The first installment in the stuff-Peter-might-have-thought series.

The Second Epistle of Peter
The thrilling conclusion.

The Epistle of Jude
And last but not least, Jude. He's may be small, but he's not forgotten.

Video

Smart Guys Talk Peter
This section of an open course at Yale University is devoted to Peter's views on the coming apocalypse. Only a couple thousand years late, Peter.

More Smart Guys Talking Jude
Another Yale open course. This time it's about Jude's thoughts on the end.

Peter's Bones
In 2013, the Vatican put what are believed to be Peter's bones on display for the first time ever. The outside of the box literally says "Peter is here." Handy.

Images

The Roman Empire
A map of all the places that Christians called home…and got oppressed by the Romans.

Hipster Luther
Hey, man. Stop trash-talking James.

James the Just
Yeah, he's kind of a big deal.

Simon Peter
Writing biblical books is serious business.