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Galatians and James Faith and Works Kerygma materials
JAMES – Chapter 1
1. The Book of James begins “1 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion: Greetings.
2. The first chapter then introduces the themes that will be expanded on latera.
Faith and Wisdom. “2 My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; 4 and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing. 5 If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you. 6 But ask in faith, never doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind; 7, 8 for the doubter, being double-minded and unstable in every way, must not expect to receive anything from the Lord.”
c. The best known choice of a James was James the brother of Jesus, mentioned at Matthew 13, 55. While he has no significant role in any gospel, he is a leader of the Jerusalem church after Jesus’ death as described in Acts, 15, 13 – 21, 21,18-26 1 Corinthians 15, 12 and Galatians 1, 19 and 2, 19. Historians reported his death in 62 AD. Later churches considered him the author and considered his pedigree in accepting the book of James as canonical. Others think it unlikely that Jesus had a brother as fluent in Greek and educated as the author of James, and question the timing of the Gospel compared to his life. They also wonder whether the brother of Jesus would not have mentioned this to give his work authority, while others note that the importance of humility in the work as why he might not have done so. James 3 says, “4 But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth. 15 Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. 16 For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind.”
d. James and Paul have different emphasis concerning the roles of faith and works. Martin Luther, much later, called James “an epistle of straw” for this reason. Scholars wonder whether either Paul or James wrote to react against the other, or perhaps against views expressed by later followers of the other. Or they may have come to their conclusions independently.
e. James also resembles the Jewish tradition of wisdom literature, such as Proverbs and the apocryphal Wisdom of Jesus son of Sirach. It also uses some Jewish figures of speech as well as sometimes resembling Greek and Roman philosophy. Other than the first line, it seems more like a sermon or guidebook than a letter. It uses many Old Testament examples and does not talk much about Jesus, mentioning him only twice. The book does talk a lot like Jesus, with a number of passages resembling sayings of Jesus from the Gospels, including the Sermon on the Mount. It does not contain intricate theologies about things like atonement and justification that developed in places like the works of Paul.
f. James is directed at “the 12 tribes of the dispersion” composed of rich and poor and who have suffered “trials”. It does not get involved in the issues of integrating Jewish and Gentile Christian communities that so concerned Paul. This leads Kerygma to suggest that James was written by a Christian Jewish sage for a Christian Jewish community or communities, and which may have been suffering persecution of some sort, probably after the destruction of Jerusalem.
4. Whatever its origins, James is popular for its simple teaching style, and its emphasis on practical Christian conduct and on just relationships between people.