Letter of James chapters 03, 04, and 05

FALL BIBLE STUDY RESOURCES:

Cockerill, Gareth Lee.  The Epistle to the Hebrews.  Part of the New International Commentary on the New Testament edited by Ned B. Stonehouse, F. F. Bruce, and Gordon D. Fee.  (Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 2012).

Harrington, Daniel J., S.J.  Jude and 2 Peter.  Part of the Sacra Pagina commentary series edited by Daniel J. Harrington S. J..  (Liturgical Press, Collegeville, 2003).

Elliott, John H..  1 Peter: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary.  Part of the Anchor Bible Commentary series edited by William Foxwell Albright and David Noel Freedman.  (Doubleday, New York, 2000).

Harten, Patrick J.  James. Part of the Sacra Pagina commentary series edited by Daniel J. Harrington S. J..  (Liturgical Press, Collegeville, 2003).

Koester, Craig R.  Hebrews: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary.  Part of the Anchor Bible commentary series edited by William Foxwell Albright and David Noel Freedman.  (Doubleday, New York, 2001).

Long, Thomas G.  Hebrews.  Part of the Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching series edited by James Luther Mays.  (Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, 1997).

Mitchell, Alan C.  Hebrews.  Part of the Sacra Pagina commentary series edited by Daniel J. Harrington S. J..  (Liturgical Press, Collegeville, 2007).

Perkins, Pheme.   First and Second Peter, James, and Jude.  Part of the Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching series edited by James Luther Mays.  (Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, 1995).

Senior, Donald P., C.P.   1 Peter.  Part of the Sacra Pagina commentary series edited by Daniel J. Harrington S. J..  (Liturgical Press, Collegeville, 2003).

Wright, N. T.  Hebrews for Everyone.  Part of the New Testament for Everyone series edited by N. T. Wright.  (Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, 2003).

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Overview

To destroy a person’s reputation is to essentially  kill him in biblical days, a bit less so today but – consider that once “bad stuff” is out there it can’t be undone, unsaid or even much compensated for.  New “Google” feature – the right to be forgotten.

My mother’s rule (and YOUR mother’s rule): “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”

James has argued that it takes two things to be properly religious:

James 1:26-27

If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, his religion is vain.  Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

Having spent a good part of chapter 2 talking about the second thrust (good works), he turns in chapter 3 to talking about controlling our tendency to gossip (as well as what it is within us that leads to it).

Another way to read this however – that our speech and our actions are intimately related, that speech is a form of action.  In the previous chapter – words that (falsely) honor the patrons and rich, false words spoken to the poor (“be well”), and claiming to be faithful when one is not.

James 3:1  Not all should be teachers

The early church had a “problem” with folks claiming to be teachers – remember those who came “from Jerusalem” and battled with Paul in his communities.  Wandering prophets and teachers ended up sowing confusion among the newly converted Gentile Christians especially since they lacked the religious background that might have provided them with a means of testing what they were hearing better.

Hartin p. 173: “Does the judgment refer to receiving a greater punishment, or being judged according to a higher standard or “responsibility”?  Both meanings are possible.  It is not necessary to choose between them; rather, one should see both concepts as intended in the judgment.”

Perkins p. 117: “Teachers whose lives do not benefit from their own instruction should be avoided.”

James 3:2-12  Unrestrained Speech Causes Evils

Perkins p. 117: “Mediocrity has no place in James’s vision of the Christian life.  Instead< James expects readers to draw two conclusions from the observation, “all of us make mistakes.”  First, looking back to verse 1, we should not rush to claim the ability to teach others a wisdom that we cannot yet practice.  Second, looking at the example of the truly wise or perfect person, we should attempt to make our lives more perfect.”

Step 1 in changing the world – begin with ourselves.  To change ourselves – begin with the “small things” – our brains, our tongues etc. and our “small” acts of kindness toward others and the poor …

There are many instances in classical Greek literature about forest fires begun with just a small flame.  Perhaps this ought to cause us to expand our reading of Acts for Pentecost?

James 3:13-18  Seek Heavenly Wisdom

Perkins p.122: “No one can pursue peace if he or she is driven by personal ambition and jealousy.”   And it takes a whole lot of virtues to pursue peace (understanding, humility etc.).

Hartin p. 194: “James lists the characteristics of true wisdom through a series of seven adjectives.  They could be called “the ‘fruits’ of wisdom”.”   Peaceable, gentle, obedient, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy.

James 4:1-5 Passions Cause Strife

Perkins p. 123: “The passions cause two types of conflict.  The first is internal, a warfare within the individual (v. 1).  The second is external and consists of passions and covetousness that lead to wars between humans.  The association between passion and war was a common theme in the moralists.”

Cain and Abel in Genesis and throughout the OT.

 

 

James 4:6-10  Humble Yourselves before God

Perkins p. 126: “James implies that the reason his audience has not experienced an end to the conflicts generated by the passions is their lack of humility before God.  The rest of the passage consists of a string of imperatives.  Humility demands a complete reversal of one’s way of life.”

Hartin p.201 finds cultic language here – “drawing near” as Moses did, as priests of the temple did to the Holy of Holies.  Cleansing hands and hearts …

Hartin p. 215: contrasts in this section

Wisdom from above vs. wisdom from the earth

Friendship vs. emnity

Friendship with God vs. friendship with world

Humble vs proud

 

James 4:11-12  Do Not Judge Others

Perkins p. 128: “…believers should be concerned with doing the will of God, not with passing judgment on the behavior of others.  Those who are truly righteous recognize that they will answer to God both for their actions and for what is in their heart.  This exhortation may have played an important role in churches that combined Jewish and non-Jewish Christians, since it prohibits judging or condemning others because of the particular details of their religious practice.”

James 4:13-17  Do not be Confident in Future Plans

Perkins p. 129: “Prosperity brings arrogance, a false confidence in our ability to secure the future.”   Ever notice how ALL rich people claim to be “self-made” men?

Those in opposition to God will wither away, a very traditional image in OT

 

 

 

 

Hosea 13:2,3

Now they continue to sin,

making for themselves molten images,

silver idols according to their skill,

all of them the work of artisans.

 

“To these, offer sacrifice,” they say.

People kiss calves!

 

Therefore, they will be like a morning cloud

or like the dew that vanishes with the dawn,

Like chaff storm-driven from the threshing floor

or like smoke out of the window.

 

James 5:1-6  God Condemns the Rich for Injustice

Perkins p. 131: “The charge of permitting one’s money to rust was a condemnation of the rich for failing to fulfill the obligation to give alms.  The benefactor relationships of ancient society created complex relationships by which the wealthy were compelled to give liberally to public needs as well as to private individuals.  In that context, hoarding was not only a private vice but also a sin against the larger community.”  Jesus’ parable of the rich fool and the barns

Matthew 6:19,20:

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal.  But store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal.”

(decay here is the same word for rust)

 

James 5:7-11  Await the Lord’s Judgment with Patience

Theme of patience (bear trials patiently 1:2) re-emerges – wait patiently

 

 

Hartin p. 248: “In the opening of this letter James had urged his hearers/readers toward a spirit of heroic endurance in the face of afflictions that tested their faith (1:3-4).  The same exhortation to heroic endurance occurs throughout the letter (1:12, 4:6-10).  At the end, then, James creates an inclusion by returning to this theme.  Not only is one called to heroic endurance amidst the afflictions that befall one (5:11), but one must actively look forward to and embrace the coming of the Lord that is imminent.”

 

James 5:12: Do Not Swear Oaths

Biblical tradition has numerous examples of unwise vows / oaths (Jephthah’s daughter story).  The OT text appears to strongly suggest that it’s best to not make oaths at all.  Once made they MUST be carried out.

The key appears to be “honesty in dealing with others”

(Sermon on the Mount)  Matthew 5:33-37

“Again you have heard that it was said to your ancestors, ‘Do not take a false oath, but make good to the Lord all that you vow.’  But I say to you, do not swear at all; not by heaven, for it is God’s throne; nor by the earth, for it is his footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King.

 

Do not swear by your head, for you cannot make a single hair white or black.  Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’ Anything more is from the evil one.

 

James 5:13-15  Prayer Heals the Sick

Perkins p. 137: “The anointing is not some form of medicine.  Nor are particular individuals credited with special gifts of healing.  In that respect, James differs from the view found in Paul (1: Cor. 12) that healing is a gift of the Spirit given to particular individuals.  Mark 6:13 refers to the disciples’ curing the sick by anointing them with oil.”

Mark 6:12,13: “So they went off and preached repentance.  They drove out many demons, and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.”

James 5:16-18  Prayer Heals the Sinner

Perkins p. 138: “The context suggests a communal ritual of repentance, confession, and healing, not cataloging of individual faults.”

James 5:19,20  Seek Out Erring Christians

Proverbs 10:12: “Hatred stirs up disputes, but love covers all offenses.”

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