Thursday, October 05, 2006

James: epistle of straw?

One of conundrums for protestants over the past 500 years has been the epistle of "James, brother of Jesus, to the twelve tribes in the dispersion." What is James talking about? How do we integrate him with Paul, "who's all about grace and justification by faith not works"? And how do we integrate James into our Luther-Calvin-(Zwingli) evangelical-protestant schema? Do we act with frustration, like Luther, who reportedly declared (fumed) James to be the epistle of straw, and tried to drop it from the New Testament Canon, (along with The Revelation)? Should we just ignore it, as some ministers advise.

Perhaps we should just continue in frustration and pretend that this issue doesn't exist (just don't run a youth group, this can often be a commonly asked question.

Maybe we should look at the wealth of scholarship in Pauline studies over the past 30 years and try and do the same with James. That is what I suggest. I freely confess my ignorance about this epistle; I can barely read it in koine Greek. However, I will endeavour to do a "fresh perspective" on James on this blog ASAP. James has it's own historical, political and cultural context and schema, and I will try to draw that out.

If anyone wants to pay me the $70 to buy the Richard Bauckham commentary on James, that would be appreciated, ha ha. Please stay tuned for more from me and the five exciting chapters of James.

1 comment:

cardboardsword said...

we're currently doing a series on James at St Barnabas, which is really helpful for understanding this sometimes-enigmatic book. I'd recommend downloading these sermons if you can, as they become available (which, given the history of the Barneys sermon webpage and a certain firey event, may take a while if it happens at all).

To give a (very) brief summary, James is very concerned with the practical outworking of salvation and faith. Speaking to the major question about faith and works, it was pointed out to us that there are three types of faith (and I may be paraphrasing):
1. Dead faith
2. Useless faith
3. Faith that works
and that this is in no way inconsistent with the Pauline view of faith and of good works going with salvation (see Ephesians 2:8-10, and note particularly v10). Also, note James 2:22 - it's not an one-or-the-other thing, it's a completion and fulfilment of faith by the works which that faith leads you to do.

The series is still going. But that seems to be the main sticking point with the book, apart from some interesting stuff in chapter 5. Open to conversation.

Good work Matt, it's a good thing to delve into. And I like your new blog.