Tuesday, March 13, 2018

1. Concentrated James (1:1)

Beginning the book of James in Hebrews and General Epistles class.

James 1
Prescript (1:1)
  • 1:1. There are several Jameses in the New Testament. There is the first apostle to be martyred, James the son of Zebedee. There was "James the Less" or James the son of Alphaeus.
  • By far the most common suggestion is James the Lord's brother, the leader of the Jerusalem church. He is well known from the book of Acts (e.g., Acts 15, 21). He is well-known from Galatians 1-2. He is mentioned in Mark 6:3 as one of several brothers of Jesus.
  • James is usually considered either the son of Joseph from a previous marriage (thus an older half-brother of Jesus) or a later child of Mary (more likely, given that the children in Mark 6:3 seem to be Mary's). Those who affirm the "perpetual virginity of Mary" favor either an older half-brother or a cousin/nephew.
  • James was put to death by the high priest Ananus, a Pharisee, after the Roman governor Festus died and the new procurator Albinus arrived in the year AD62.
  • Here's the quote: "This younger Ananus who took the high priesthood was a bold man in his temper, and very insolent; he was also of the sect of the Sadducees, who are very rigid in judging offenders… when Ananus was of this disposition, he thought he had now a proper opportunity [to exercise his authority]. Festus was now dead, and Albinus was but upon the road; so he assembled the Sanhedrin of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some of his companions. And when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned" (Josephus, Ant. 20.9).
  • Having said that the James in view was likely the Lord's half-brother, James Dunn suggests that the book may be a collection/"translation" of James' teaching for a broad, Greek-speaking audience. Dunn is addressing the generic rather than Jewish particular feel of the letter. The book of James does not have the more "partisan" feel of James in Galatians 2 or Acts 21 and even the treatment of works is generic rather than along the lines of "works of Law" in Paul's debates. Of course others have suggested that James was fully pseudonymous.
  • "To the twelve tribes in the Diaspora." Two choices here. Are the twelve tribes literal, to Jews scattered throughout the world? James does not really have that kind of feel. It is not really Jewish in an exclusivist way. It has a "universalist" feel, as if it would apply equally to either a Jewish or a Gentile believer. 
  • It thus seems more likely that James is considering all believers, including Gentiles, as part of the new Israel, a redefined twelve tribes. 
  • "Greetings." James certainly is in a letter format, but it is more of an epistle in that it seems to have a universal rather than a particular audience.

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