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James; Teacher of Faith and Wisdom [Index thread]

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posted on Dec, 17 2012 @ 05:21 PM
My series of threads on James has now reached the end of the letter.
Here, then, is the promised Index, to help people find their way around them.

I get the impression that the New Testament letter of James is a compendium of the essential features of James’ teaching.
More than once, in these discussions, I’ve suggested that a passage was already part of his pastoral teaching before being brought into the letter that we’ve got in front of us.
The connections between the different parts of the letter may sometimes be a little disjointed, and it seems evident that it wasn’t written from beginning to end as a continuous composition.
Nevertheless, this letter does have an genuine overall theme and a roughly-organised internal structure, as I hope the following summary will be able to demonstrate.

Chapter One

Tested Faith

Ch1 vv1-12
The opening verses introduce two of the major themes, Faith and Wisdom.
James warns that Faith will be “tested” and needs to be preserved..
For this purpose, presumably, the believer is advised to ask God for Wisdom, which has a role in this letter similar to the role of the Holy Spirit in the writings of Paul.
When a man is “steadfast” in his Faith, his reward is to be “the crown of life”.

Do not be deceived

Ch1 vv13-17
Putting right a possible misunderstanding, James explains that God is not the source of the “testing” which hampers our Faith.
The testing is coming, instead, from the “desire” which we all find within us.
What comes from God is “every good endowment and every perfect gift”.
It seems reasonable to assume that “Wisdom”, which helps us to deal with the testing, is the gift which is uppermost in the writer’s mind.

Hearing the Word

Ch1 vv18-21
The supreme example of the “good gifts” of God is the fact that “he brought us forth by the Word of truth” (which seems to be James’ version of the concept “born of the Spirit”, found in other parts of the New Testament).
We are urged to continue hearing the Word ,with meekness, as a remedy for the unrighteousness in our lives.

Doing the Word

Ch1 vv22-27
James goes on to tell us that we need to be “doers of the Word, and not hearers only”, activating and putting into effect the Word which we have received.
This is the equivalent of Paul’s advice, that if we “live by the Spirit”, we should also “walk by the Spirit”.

Chapter Two

The Royal Law

Ch2 vv1-13
This chapter follows on from the previous chapter, implicitly, by illustrating what is meant by “doing the Word”.
It means, for example, the application among the brethren of the “Royal Law”, the commandment “You shall love your neighbour as yourself”.

Faith and Works

Ch2 vv14-26
The famous discussion about “Faith and Works” is a continuation of the same argument.
What James means by “Faith” in this passage is a merely spoken Faith, which equates with “hearing the Word only”.
What James means by “Works” in this passage is activated Faith, Faith which has been put into practical effect, which equates with “doing the Word”.
I surmise that James is consciously correcting the kind of teachers who have been distorting Paul’s teaching in the direction of merely spoken Faith.

Chapter Three

The use of the tongue

Ch3 vv1-12
James complains about the aggressive use of the tongue.
I’ve suggested that this was primarily directed, in this context, at the problem of intemperate theological controversy.
That is to say, the dogmatic “Faith-alone” teachers that he was criticising in ch2 were the same people who were teaching over-confidently and aggressively in ch3, and using violent language against their opponents to the extent of cursing them.

The Wisdom from above

Ch3 vv13-18
The wise man is now advised to “show his works in the meekness of Wisdom”.
James explains the difference between the more natural ,”earthly”, wisdom, and the Wisdom which “comes from above”.
The contrast between them, in their effects, is remarkably similar to the contrast in Galatians between “the works of the flesh” and “the fruit of the Spirit”.
After James has been criticising the theory of the “Faith-alone” dogmatists, and also, perhaps, their verbal behaviour, this passage has the effect of offering a better alternative to their “verbal Faith” teaching.

Chapter Four

Friends and enemies

Ch4 vv1-10
This chapter follows on from the previous chapter, implicitly, by illustrating the effects of the wrong kind of wisdom, which allows people to be led astray by their “passions”.
These passions make them acquisitive, and then start them fighting for the sake of gain.
James gives them a solemn warning that “friendship with the world” has the effect of making them “enemies of God”.
They need to turn themselves back to God and repent.

(I was surprised, incidentally, that this discussion received so much less attention than the following thread, even though “Friends and enemies” was the better piece. Was it the title again? Why not have another look?)

Not judging the brethren

Ch4 vv11-12
Echoing the words of Jesus, James warns the brethren about speaking evil against one another, or “judging” the other brethren
This warning is rather loosely attached to the context, but the connection could be that “speaking evil” and “judging” are driven by the passions, including the theological passions.

The fate of the wealthy

Ch4 vv13-16 & Ch5 vv1-6
Coming back to the acquisitive passions, James is now addressing those absorbed in the pursuit and possession of wealth.
These people, too, are making the wrong choice, disregarding their God.

Chapter Five

Waiting for God

Ch5 vv7-11
Finally, at the end of the letter, James returns to considering the needs of the brethren, focussing upon Faith, with special reference to patience in suffering and confidence in prayer.
The first part of that theme is covered in this passage.
The suffering brethren need to be steadfast and patient while they are waiting for “the coming of the Lord”

The prayer of Faith

Ch5 vv12-20
This passage covers the second part of the same theme, dealing with prayer for the benefit of the other brethren.
When they pray for the sick, James assures them, God will respond by healing, and forgiving the sins of, the sick man.
He also encourages them to “bring back” a brother who is “wandering from the truth”- and this, again, may be partly about praying that his sins will be forgiven

Since the beginning of the letter (implicitly) and the end of the letter (more explicitly) are both about the risk of losing Faith, the letter has now come round full circle and returns to the starting point.

Incidentally, an Index to the previous series of threads, on Revelation, can be found at this location;
Revelation; Project complete

posted on Dec, 17 2012 @ 05:30 PM
Great job. I enjoy reading your posts.

posted on Dec, 17 2012 @ 05:31 PM
reply to post by EnochWasRight

Thank you for the encouragement.

posted on Dec, 17 2012 @ 07:09 PM
Additional comments;

Close study of this letter seems to confirm that the teaching of James was firmly based on the teaching of Jesus.
Various references and allusions and even one or two outright paraphrases (as discussed in the various threads) are the evidence pointing to this conclusion.
As far as I'm concerned, that knocks on the head the more modern suggestion that James is "really" a Jewish letter, and that the Christian features are only superficial.

posted on Dec, 18 2012 @ 05:07 PM
Addtitional comments;

From time to time, in these threads, I've found reason to suggest that the author of this letter was acquainted with other parts of the New Testament, because of the apparent allusions and echoes.
Galatians, obviously, but also 1 Peter ch1 and Hebrews ch11.
The suggestion implies a comparatively late date in the possible spectrum for the writing of James.
At the same time, it also implies a comparatively early date in the spectrum for the writing of the other passages.

posted on Dec, 19 2012 @ 05:11 PM
Additional comments;

On a number of occasions in these threads. I've suggested that passages were part of the regular pastoral teaching of James before they were brought into this letter.
So if the letter is effectively a compendium of most of the teaching of James, what were the circumstances of making the collection?
Of course this could have been James collecting his own teaching for a particular purpose, perhaps in imitation of the fact that the correspondance of Paul with his own flock was being distributed.
I've also toyed with the idea that the collection was made posthumously, by one of the disciples of James, wanting to preserve the teachings of a beloved pastor.
This would certainly explain why passages were included without much obvious connection with the context, such as the warning against "judging" and the prohibition of swearing. The disciple would be reluctant to leave anything out.
However this "literary executor" theory also poses the likelihood that such an "editor" would have to be responsible for some of the connecting links, and I don't feel ready to tackle that question.
edit on 19-12-2012 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)

posted on Jan, 12 2013 @ 02:01 AM
Great! I've been waiting for this. Are you planning on doing another one of these studies? I really enjoy it.

posted on Jan, 12 2013 @ 06:04 PM
reply to post by ProfessorWonder

Thank you for those comments.
I'm tending to focus on those books, like Revelation and James, where i feel I can make a worthwhile contribution of my own, so I haven't been touching the well-trodden ground like the gospels.
One possibility is taking selected passages from 1 Corinthians (something I've done before), following a "nature of the Christian community" theme. I've made a start on one of these, but it isn't flowing at the moment.
From time to time I do a thread on parts of Daniel, which is adding up to a very occasional series. A couple more contributions to that can be expected soon.
I've got some notes on a possible exposition of Song of Solomon, but first i want to check my line against an academic commentary and make sure it's compatible with the Hebrew text.
I might do more with epistles, if it's more obvious that people are reading them.

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