This paper presents the first simulation model of a tilting pad journal bearing (TPJB) using three-dimensional (3D) computational fluid dynamics (CFD), including multiphase flow, thermal-fluid, transitional turbulence, and thermal deformation of the shaft and pads employing two-way fluid–structure interaction (FSI). Part I presents a modeling method for the static performance. The model includes flow between pads BP, which eliminates the use of an uncertain, mixing coefficient (MC) in Reynold's equation approaches. The CFD model is benchmarked with Reynold's model with a 3D thermal-film, when the CFD model boundary conditions are consistent with the Reynolds boundary conditions. The Reynolds model employs an oversimplified MC representation of the three-dimensional mixing effect of the BP flow and heat transfer, and it also employs simplifying assumptions for the flow and heat transfer within the thin film between the journal and bearing. This manufactured comparison shows good agreement between the CFD and Reynold's equation models. The CFD model is generalized by removing these fictitious boundary conditions on pad inlets and outlets and instead models the flow and temperature between pads. The results show that Reynold's model MC approach can lead to significant differences with the CFD model including detailed flow and thermal modeling between pads. Thus, the CFD approach provides increased reliability of predictions. The paper provides an instructive methodology including detailed steps for properly applying CFD to tilt pad bearing modeling. Parts I and II focus on predicting static and dynamic response characteristic responses, respectively.