The Letter of James

The Letter of James April 29, 2014

The modified quote in my previous post was inspired by the discussion of the opening section of the letter of James in my Sunday school class this past Sunday.

The letter fascinates me. It has a couple of mentions of the Lord Jesus Christ, but none of the traditional theological elements one will expect if one is steeped in the letters of Paul. No mention of Jesus’ crucifixion, much less an interpretation thereof as an atoning sacrifice. No mention of an afterlife at all, much less of the resurrection of Jesus.

Martin Luther was happy to relegate James to the fringe of the New Testament. And in one sense, it belongs there when compared to the preponderance of other views contained therein.

But if this is an authentic letter by James the brother of Jesus, then it may take us far closer to the earliest form of Jewish Christianity than anything else in the New Testament. And so what seems particularly odd to us may once have been the mainstream, and what now seems mainstream to us was presumably once a fringe phenomenon.

Do you think that James wrote this letter? It seems to lack any of the concerns or the tone one expects in pseudepigraphal works. And, while in theory it could be a non-Christian Jewish work with a couple of Christian additions, the fact that its teaching is so closely related to that of Jesus as found in the Q material in the Gospels makes that less likely.

What do you make of the letter of James?


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