James; Hearing the Word

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posted on Aug, 13 2012 @ 05:02 PM
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In a previous thread, I was considering the passage in the New Testament letter of James where he tells us not to be deceived about the gifts of God (ch1 vv13-17)
We needed to understand that God gives us the “endowments” which help us to maintain our Faith, rather than the temptations which put our Faith under pressure.
James; Do not be deceived

Then he brings to our attention one more thing that God has done for us.(v18)
“Of his own will he brought us forth by the Word of truth”.

That opening word, “of his own will”, (BOULETHEIS) is not redundant.
It emphasises the ungrudging generosity of what God was doing, and also the fact that he wasn’t pushed into action by any power beyond himself.

But who does James mean, when he says “us”?
Is this about the origin of human life, or is it about the origin of Christian life?

The first explanation works better if these verses are taken in isolation from the rest of the letter.
In the earlier thread, I suggested that v17 might have been used in the teaching of James before it became part of this letter, to emphasise the uniqueness of God as the Father and source of all things.
This then leads into the declaration that God “brought forth” the human race, through the Word spoken in Genesis, to be “a kind of first-fruits of his creation”.
This, in turn, could have led into the invitation found in v21, as a call to abandon wickedness and receive “the implanted Word,” the Word of the gospel “which is able to save your souls”.
There are echoes here of the parable of the Sower; the word “implanted” suggests the seed, while the “rank growths of wickedness” are the weeds which threaten to overwhelm it.
If this call is based on v17, it’s the same kind of reasoning that Paul used on the Areopagus, when he drew a message of repentance out of the fact that God “made the world and everything in it” (Acts ch17 vv24-31)

But if we bring these verses into the overall context of the letter, they must be taken in a different way.
This is a pastoral letter, addressed to a community of believers.
The first chapter, up to this point, has been about Faith.
In that context, the “endowments” of v17 have to be understood as Faith-related gifts.
When I was discussing this in the previous thread, I suggested (as I’ve already mentioned) that their purpose is to help us to maintain our Faith.
This then leads into a declaration about the beginnings of our Faith.
God gave us the supreme gift when he brought us forth as Christians through the Word of truth, and in that sense we are the “first-fruits of creation” (the pick of the crop, dedicated to God).
This, in turn, leads into the instruction found in v21, which implies that that we should continue receiving the same Word, as an on-going part of our lives.

However, the word “Therefore”, which appears at the beginning of v21, can be applied in two different ways.
On the one hand, it’s the delayed conclusion of the argument found in v18;
“God brought us life through the Word, and therefore we need to receive that Word”.
At the same time, it’s also following on directly from the intervening verses, which describe the state of mind capable of receiving the Word.
“The Word cannot be received in an unreceptive state of mind, and therefore we need to be receiving it with meekness.”

V19 describes the receptive state of mind in terms of “hearing” the Word.
We cannot receive the Word unless we are ready to listen, “quick to hear”.
This goes together with being “slow to speak”, because the sound of our own voice blocks our ears.
Putting the same thing another way, we cannot hear the Word in a state of anger, because “anger” is the outward pressure of personality, hostile to external things and pushing them away.
In other words, the egotism of self-will is the obstruction which prevents us from receiving what God wants to give us.
The Word can only be heard by the receptivity of “meekness”.

I want to examine more closely the statement in v20 that “the anger of man does not work (OUK ERGAZETAI) the righteousness of God”.
To “work” something is to carry it out, to put it into effect.
Another version of the same word was used in v3, when James said that the testing of our Faith “produces” (KATERGAZETAI) steadfastness.
But what is meant by the phrase “righteousness of God”?
Perhaps the most obvious interpretation is that it is a standard of measurement, the kind of righteousness which God has himself and which we’re aiming at.
But anger, as the opposite of love, is not part of this righteousness.
That helps to explain how anger, along with filthiness and wickedness, obstructs the hearing of the Word.

But there’s also a more profound possibility.
The phrase could mean the righteousness originating from God, which we have received from him among the endowments mentioned in v17.
Then “working” the righteousness of God would mean activating and actualising the righteousness which we have received, putting it into active operation.
It would then be another version of the warning found in v22, that we need to be “doing” the Word as well as hearing it

The most obvious time to receive the gift of “God’s righteousness” would be the experience of “new birth”, which seems to be described in those words “He brought us forth by the Word of truth”.
We find similar language in 1 Peter;
“You have been born anew, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding Word of God” – 1 Peter ch1 v23
But in other parts of the New Testament, which might be more familiar, the new birth comes by means of the Holy Spirit.
Thus the advice that is given to Nicodemus is that he needs to be “born of the Sprit”- John ch3 vv5-6’
While the phrase used by Paul is “according to the Spirit” (Galatians ch4 v29).

If these are equivalent phrases, then James is using the term “Word” in the same way that these other writers are using the term “Spirit”.
They have to be understood as equivalent concepts.
This ought to throw some light on what James means both by “hearing the Word”, and also by “doing the Word”.





edit on 13-8-2012 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)




posted on Aug, 13 2012 @ 06:22 PM
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Originally posted by DISRAELI
But who does James mean, when he says “us”?
Is this about the origin of human life, or is it about the origin of Christian life?


Possibly both. The same and exact Gospel Jesus taught was around since Adam. The concept of hating/forsaking any material wealth, any worldly relationships, any worldly ambitions, for the sake of loving God.

The concept of repentance as opposed to sacrificing animals to attain salvation was around all the way back to Adam. No animal sacrifice were needed to atone for sins or worship and praise God. God did not require of any animal sacrifice. You'll find these in the Book of Enoch.

If you treat the Bible as history book, more than a Holy Book, immune from any alterations/corruptions. It would take on a completely different meaning and the Jews seeming to have forgotten the 'Gospel' come Old Testament and began to worship other Gods until Jesus came.

I could say about the 'bad/evil gifts'. That money or wealth is not among the good gifts and could easily be in the bad/evil gifts category. I did not even mention healing and casting out demons, because according to Jesus, it's not the most important gifts and the devil could perform such miracles too. Jesus gave numerous warnings about money and wealth. He did not work for a wage, and for someone who lived with God in Heaven, he chose to live on Earth as a very poor person, with no house to live, no property, only his clothes. Jesus did not complain in his living conditions, the fact that Jesus seems to be genuinely loving his stay on Earth, spending time alone in the wilderness, with the animals.

Only when you have put God above anything else will the Good Gifts (wisdom, righteousness, and the Holy Spirit) become good, shiny, and to be sought for. If you love this world and the good things in it, you might actually hate what's in store in the Kingdom of Heaven.
edit on 13-8-2012 by ahnggk because: (no reason given)



posted on Aug, 13 2012 @ 06:23 PM
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If these are equivalent phrases, then James is using the term “Word” in the same way that these other writers are using the term “Spirit”.

Readers of my previous threads on James may have noticed that I came to the same conclsuion about the phrase "the Wisdom from above", when I was looking at the end of ch3.
The common factor is that both expressions are alternatives for the term "Spirit", which James seems to avoid.



posted on Aug, 13 2012 @ 06:33 PM
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reply to post by ahnggk
 

Thank you for that contribution.
I was about to quote part of your post (that saying you love God is not the same thing as doing it) and remark that this is what James gets into a little later, when he talks about doing the Word and not just hearing it, and indeed the whole of ch2. But you edited out that part, so I wasn't able to quote it.



posted on Aug, 13 2012 @ 06:33 PM
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reply to post by DISRAELI
 


Jesus used the term 'Spirit of Truth' and it gave the ability to discern the truth so it's probably the same.



posted on Aug, 13 2012 @ 06:34 PM
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reply to post by DISRAELI
 


Sorry about that I have a habbit of condensing my posts



posted on Aug, 13 2012 @ 06:38 PM
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Originally posted by ahnggk
I could say about the 'bad/evil gifts'. That money or wealth is not among the good gifts and could easily be in the bad/evil gifts category.

Yes, indeed. James implies this earlier in the chapter, when he has been talking about what the believing man can receive from God, and then adds that the rich man can only expect humiliation (vv10-11)



posted on Aug, 14 2012 @ 03:53 PM
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reply to post by DISRAELI
 

Then “working” the righteousness of God would mean activating and actualising the righteousness which we have received, putting it into active operation.

There probably is a subtle difference, based on the verb form, where it is more like not allowing God's righteousness to be fully actualized.



posted on Aug, 14 2012 @ 05:12 PM
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reply to post by jmdewey60
 

I don't think I would quarrel with that way of putting it.
That second interpretation of mine offers the implied suggestion that James was on the same wavelength as Paul in talking about "the righteousness of God", and your comment nudges the similarity even closer.
Is this line of interpretation really based on what James says, or does it come (as someone might object) from a desire to find James' teaching congenial with Paul's teaching?
In our defence, there's the point I made in the OP, that James also talks of receiving the Word from God and then "doing" it, which is a very similar kind of message.

(i don't know what the verb-form has to do with the question, though. Isn't it just a straightforward present indicative, third person singular?)





edit on 14-8-2012 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)



posted on Aug, 14 2012 @ 07:03 PM
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Interesting comparison;

I've already observed that the statement "brought forth by the Word of truth" finds an echo in the first chapter of 1 Peter, which speaks of being "born through the Word of God".

But it's worth noting that this is only part of the convergence between James ch1 and 1 Peter ch1.

For one thing, comparing vv2-3 with 1 Peter ch1 vv6-7, we find an exact coincidence in the wording of two Greek phrases.
The coniciding phrases are PEIRASMOIS POIKILOIS ("various trials") and TO DOKIMION HUMIN TES PISTEOS ("the genuineness of your faith")- though 1 Peter is talking about persecution.

Then, in 1 Peter, the reference to being born "through the abiding Word of God" is followed quite naturally by the quotation from Isaiah which describes how grass withers and flowers fade "but the word of the Lord abides for ever".
But James appears to be alluding to the same quotation, more indirectly, earlier in the chapter, when he describes how the rich man passes away like the flower or the grass when the sun rises (vv10-11).

In some ways it seems more natural, especially in the case of the second similarity, to understand the similarities to arise from James' acquaintance with 1 Peter rather than the other way round.
However, this thought has complicating implications for the dating of the two letters.



posted on Aug, 14 2012 @ 08:51 PM
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reply to post by DISRAELI
 

Isn't it just a straightforward present indicative, third person singular?

I have it listed as middle or Passive deponent.
readingthebibleingreek.blog.com...
I have that verse with a few other examples of that verb form. That is something I like to do and why I have that blog, to compare how these morphological forms are used.
On the page for that one, it also has James using that form for the verbs in both 1:3 and 1:20.
edit on 14-8-2012 by jmdewey60 because: add Bible quote: "For the creation eagerly waits for the revelation of the sons of God." Romans 8:19



posted on Aug, 15 2012 @ 05:26 PM
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reply to post by jmdewey60
 

Sorry, I missed that point through picking up a small handbook.
Yes, of course, the entire verb ERGAZOMAI is Middle in form, as I should have realised.
"The Middle voice generally denotes that the subject is acting upon himself, or in some way that concerns himself".
(though I'm not sure that this helps us much, because any of the interpretations that we've suggested can fit that description)

The similar "working righteousness" in Acts ch10 v35 is often translated "does what is right", which, if anything, supports the unadventurous "standard of measurement" interpretation.
The biggest lexicon I've got, under ERGAZOMAI, offers Acts 10 v35 as an example of "exercise, perform,commit", and James ch1 v20 as an example of "cause to exist, produce"



posted on Aug, 16 2012 @ 06:05 PM
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Interesting comparison;

Paul speaks of the righteousness which comes from God, and the need to submit to God’s righteousness- Romans ch10 v3
The righteousness of God is not only manifested through the work of Jesus, but also given;
“…those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness…”- Romans ch5 v17
Paul then goes on to tells his readers to “yield your members to God as instruments of righteousness”- Romans ch6 v13

I have suggested that the phrase used by James, “working the righteousness of God” could be following the same line of thought, i.e. that righteousness is something received from God and then applied.
I pointed out that James says something very similar about the Word, that it is received from God and then applied (“be doers of the Word and not hearers only”).

It must be admitted that this interpretation is not justified by the immediate context, which is about being receptive to the Word. In that context, “the righteousness of God” as the standard of measurement for desirable behaviour is the more obvious interpretation.

However, the neat opposition of “anger of man” and “righteousness of God” suggests that v20 (without the “for”, of course) could have been a favourite dictum of James even before being incorporated into this letter. If it was once an independent saying, there is more scope for the possibility that “righteousness received from God” was one of the thoughts in James’ mind.



posted on Aug, 16 2012 @ 08:48 PM
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reply to post by DISRAELI
 

The righteousness of God is not only manifested through the work of Jesus, but also given;

NETBible has a comment on that word

23 sn God’s righteousness could refer to (1) God’s righteous standard, (2) the righteousness God gives, (3) righteousness before God, or (4) God’s eschatological righteousness (see P. H. Davids, James [NIGTC], 93, for discussion).
You can read that on Amazon by going to the page for that book, and using the preview function, and typing into the search box, "eschatological righteousness". On Page 93 Davids says, "obviously, you can't use Paul to interpret James."
edit on 16-8-2012 by jmdewey60 because: add Bible quote: "For the creation eagerly waits for the revelation of the sons of God." Romans 8:19



posted on Aug, 16 2012 @ 11:30 PM
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I should probably post some sort of opinion rather than just leaving it at a list of possible answers.
I would go with 4) "eschatological righteousness", even if I can not explain exactly what it means.
The world is supposed to be a better place and God is willing to go to great lengths in order to bring it about.
The "better place" is the eschaton, the goal, starting with the crucifixion, judging evil by showing what it is, the anger of the leaders of the Jews who saw their positions of power in jeopardy, anger enough to kill a man despite the possibility that he could in fact be the chosen one of God.
edit on 16-8-2012 by jmdewey60 because: add Bible quote: "For the creation eagerly waits for the revelation of the sons of God." Romans 8:19



posted on Aug, 17 2012 @ 05:59 PM
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For information;
The next topic will be "doing the Word", which will probably cober the rest of the chapter.
Chapter 2 will be for a later date.



posted on Aug, 17 2012 @ 06:19 PM
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reply to post by jmdewey60
 

Much depends on context.
That article's meaning 1) is adequate for the immediate context, though the saying might have been habitual with James before it entered that context. I say "habitual", because a pastoral leader who comes up with a neat slogan like "anger of man, righteousness of God" is obviously going to use it more than once.
My speculation has been proposing a meaning which isn't really on that list. At the end of the chapter, James treats "the Word" as an active power, received from God and then applied. In the next chapter, it looks like he is saying much the same thing about Faith. So I contemplated the idea that "God's righteousness" as another label for the same active power might be part of his thoughts about the concept.

Agreed that we should not be interpreting James by Paul in the sense of defining theology by Paul and forcing James' teaching to conform with it.
But I would argue that some critics of James (like Luther) have been committing a similar fault when they criticise the language of James in terms of what the words mean when Paul uses them (a by-product of the fact that Paul's terminology has become standard in theology, while James avoids it).
So I think it's legitimate to explore the possibility that James's thinking underneath his words is at least compatible with Paul's- as we might expect, if they belonged to the same overall community.



edit on 17-8-2012 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)



posted on Aug, 18 2012 @ 02:18 PM
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reply to post by DISRAELI
 

At the end of the chapter, James treats "the Word" as an active power, received from God and then applied.
I don't get what you mean, starting with which verse you are referring to. Do you mean James 1:22 ?

But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves.

I've bought two commentaries so far, by Douglas Moo and Ralph Martin and just now ordered another, this time a classic by Martin Dibelius who was writing back in 1939. This is stuff I wanted to get anyways, having decided I should probably start collecting commentaries, but just re-prioritized things a bit since you are willing to do threads on the subject.
NETBible translates Logos in verse 22 as message, so sort of leaves this idea you are presenting out of the loop but I don't always agree with their translation decisions. You may want to consider a Hellenistic philosophical approach by seeing the Logos as an empowering spirit.
edit on 18-8-2012 by jmdewey60 because: add Bible quote: "For the creation eagerly waits for the revelation of the sons of God." Romans 8:19



posted on Aug, 18 2012 @ 04:06 PM
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Originally posted by jmdewey60
]I don't get what you mean, starting with which verse you are referring to. Do you mean James 1:22 ?

But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves.

Sorry, yes, that was what I was meaning.
"Hearing the Word"= receiving it, "Doing the Word"= applying it.
I didn't expound in more detail because I'm doing that in the next thread (first draft ready, but needs polishing).



posted on Aug, 24 2012 @ 12:09 AM
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OK, so are you proposing that the verses through 17 are a lead-up to verse 18?
If so, then that would agree with Martin Dibelius, where he puts verses 2-18 together as one group.
I was looking at different commentaries on James and noticed the practice of using Dibelius as a sort of starting point, to compare different alternative understandings to, so decided maybe I should start with who is apparently the master when it comes to James.
I just got my copy yesterday which was formerly a library book, from Horrmann Library, Wagner College, Staten Island, NY, not that this trivia is of any interest, but probably only to me. It's on top of Grymes Hill, where one of the larger buildings on campus sits, just below the library, that I made a 3D model of, for the flight simulation program, X-Plane.
He says the temptations in 13-15 are not the same trials as are mentioned in verse 2.
There is the possibility of an attempted play on words between verse 15 and verse 18 with the use of the word "to bring forth" in both, one where it is death from bad desires and the other, us (the first-fruits), as a result of the word.
The use of "Do not be led astray" should not lead one to think this is a borrowing from Paul because it seems to be a standard phrase used in diatribe of the time, including being well established by Epictetus in his discourses.
Dibelius argues in favor of seeing verse 18 soteriologically rather than cosmologically but I would see it less as an either/or if you understand that there is a goal that God is working towards which is a better universe than the condition it is now in, and this better world is being made one person at a time. But to ultimately be a part of that better world requires one to be "saved", by way of being given eternal life once this one is over.
edit on 24-8-2012 by jmdewey60 because: add Bible quote: "For the creation eagerly waits for the revelation of the sons of God." Romans 8:19





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