James Papers Coming to SBL – Twelve!

sblLogoWow! I count twelve (12) papers on James at the Annual Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature in New Orleans coming up November 21 – 24. The presentation of these twelve papers is dispersed among eight (8) different section units. How appropriate since James was addressed to the twelve tribes in the dispersion, and one proposal for the letter’s organization divides it into twelve sections. Well, I’m sure that has nothing to do with it.

Below is a listing of the papers with their abstracts organized under their respective program units. Oh, how I wish I could go!

Jewish Christianity / Christian Judaism
Joint Session With: Jewish Christianity / Christian Judaism, Didache in Context
11/21/2009,  9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Clayton N. Jefford, Saint Meinrad School of Theology, Presiding

Patrick J. Hartin, Gonzaga University
“Ethos and Ethics of the Didache: Affinity with Other Early Jesus Groups Within Judaism?”
The ethos of a people or a community points to its very identity and vision: this is who we are and this is what distinguishes us from other groups or communities. The ethos gives rise to the ethics of the community: those rules, values, guidelines to which members of the community adhere and which express their identity. This paper analyzes the Didache with a view to disclosing the ethos and identity of the community which it reflects. This analysis also leads to an examination of the ethical admonitions occurring as boundary markers that give expression to the identity of the community of the Didache. The ethical admonitions of the Didache all occur in a theological rather than Christological context. Among the ethical admonitions, attention is given to the Jewish Two Ways of Did 3:1-6; the Double Command of Love; and concepts such as “being perfect” (teleios) and “being double-minded” (dipsychein). The second part of this paper examines the ethos, identity and similar ethical admonitions within three other documents from Jesus groups within Judaism, namely the Letter of James, the Sermon on the Mount and the Two Ways teaching found in the Letter of Barnabas. Based on this investigation, possible affinities among these documents will emerge.

11/21/2009,  4:00 PM to 6:30 PM,
Robert L. Webb, McMaster University, Presiding
Theme: James and Q

Paul Foster, University of Edinburgh
“Q and James: A Source Critical Conundrum”
This paper provides an overview of the major theories that seek to account for the similar traditions that exist in Q and James. First, the nature of the different types of parallels will be analyzed. Secondly, the major critical suggestions which account for these parallels will be assessed. Thirdly, the paper will discuss the significance of the existence of such parallel sources of tradition for accessing material which may be traced back to the historical Jesus.

Patrick J. Hartin, Gonzaga University
“Wholeness in James and the Q Source”
The sayings traditions of Jesus of Nazareth lie at the foundation of the moral exhortations in both the Letter of James are the Q Source. An examination of both James and Q reveals that they hold some of the moral exhortations in common. The purpose of this paper will be to examine these common links with the Jesus tradition by focusing on their vision of God and its consequence for action. This study demonstrates that faith in action captures the vision of James and the Q source. James’s vision embraced an understanding of works that occurred in the context of one’s whole life of faith (Jas 1:14) as does the Q Source (Q 6:46-49). Through an examination of concrete texts this study will further show that the traditions of Jesus that James and Q transmit are focused on the Israelite value of wholeness. At the same time a social-scientific examination of the value of wholeness will demonstrate how this value of wholeness is reflected equally in the traditions of James and Q. Patterns of all-or-nothing (characteristic of the Israelite value of wholeness) are common to James and Q. The value of wholeness is what links together the ethical traditions of Jesus in James and Q. Among some of the examples: God demands total allegiance; people cannot serve both God and mammon (Q 16:13). Friendship with the world is enmity with God (Jas 4:4); the need to keep the whole Law (Q 16:17 and Jas 2:10), etc. Through this analysis of the moral exhortations in James and Q, this paper will illustrate that the Q tradition as it developed further in the Sermon on the Mount is also reflected in the Jesus tradition at the heart of James’s ethical teaching. The common links in the traditions between James and Q are explained from the fact that James is aware of the Jesus tradition as it is being handed on within the Q community and its developing tradition as seen in the Q Sermon on the Mount.

Wesley Hiram Wachob, First United Methodist Church, Pensacola, Florida
“The Kingdom is Promised to the Poor”
The Epistle of James is an instance of written rhetorical discourse which appropriates a tradition of Jesus’ sayings in an effort to modify the social thought and behavior of its addressees. The focus of this essay is James 2:5, an allusion to a saying of Jesus that is performed in four other early texts: QMatt 5:3; QLuke 6:20b; Gos. Thom. 54; and Pol. Phil. 2:3. I should like to explore the links between these five performances of a Jesus-chreia from a socio-rhetorical perspective: treating of their form, reasoning, focus, and their rhetorical and theological functions.

John S. Kloppenborg, University of Toronto, will respond to the above three papers

Greek Bible
Joint Session With: Greek Bible, International Organization for Septuagint and Cognate Studies
11/22/2009,  9:00 AM to 11:30 AM,
Cameron Boyd-Taylor, University of Cambridge, Presiding
Theme: Greek Minor Prophets

Karen H. Jobes, Wheaton College
“The Minor Prophets in James”
The writers of the New Testament certainly knew and were influenced by the Twelve. But where verbal parallels with the text of the Twelve are too short clearly to be quotations, it is difficult to determine if the parallel is truly a literary allusion or simply the common vocabulary of a shared tradition. Focusing on allusions to the Minor Prophets in the book of James, this paper will explore methodology involved in an attempt to demonstrate reference to the Greek text of the Twelve in this epistle.

Letters of James, Peter, and Jude
11/22/2009,  9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Peter H. Davids, St. Stephen’s University, Presiding

Jason Coker, Drew University
“(Sub)alternative: The Subaltern Identities of James and Paul in the Roman Empire”
In the field of Subaltern Studies, scholars attempt to construct a history from below that emphasizes the most marginalized people in a society. Gayatri Spivak is famous for problematizing the marginalized by showing how hierarchical structures exist within oppressed societies, i.e. the oppressed within the oppressed. Using this framework, I will read James and Paul as competing subaltern identities within the dominant Roman Empire. Each provides a “subalternative” identity within the marginalized early Jewishness of the first century. In an attempt to construct an identity in relation to the Roman Empire, both James and Paul negotiate cultural border lines. James argues for a more conservative, nativist position while Paul radicalizes and/or hybridizes Jewish identity. In this way, they offer (sub)alternative identities for their constituencies. This process of negotiation also reveals the palimpsest that was Jewishness and Christianness in the first century.

Jason Whitlark, Baylor University
“Emphutos Logos: A New Covenant Motif in the Letter of James”
Studies on the “implanted word” in the letter of James fall into two trajectories. One proposed trajectory sets this term against the background of Stoic philosophy as a reference to natural reason common to all humans. The other sets this term against the background of the Christian proclamation of the gospel internalized by the Christian community. The argument in this paper attempts to further the latter trajectory by arguing that the “implanted word” motif is an enablement motif grounded in new covenant thinking. To this end, this paper will argue that the Letter of James assumes a pessimistic anthropology and that emphutos in the pagan, Jewish, and, espeicially, the early Christian contexts was understood as an enablement motif for the moral and religious life.

Mariam J. Kamell, University of St. Andrews-Scotland
“Endurance unto Salvation: The Witness of 1 Peter and James”
Both First Peter and James speak about the link between endurance and salvation, and yet in deference to the Pauline epistles, rarely is this mentioned except as an aside in most theological writings. Their witness is seen as “secondary” in most systematic work. These two epistles, however, have a remarkable amount of overlap, even simply in their first chapters, regarding the theme of endurance and its central importance for salvation. In 1 Peter 1:6-9, the author concedes that his audience will “have to suffer grief” but assures them that they “are receiving the goal of faith, the salvation of your souls.” Trials, he states, have come so that faith might be “proved.” James encourages joy in the “testing” of faith that believers might become “mature and complete” (1:3-5). Those who persevere will “receive the crown which is life” (1:12). For both authors the reality of a “variety of trials” (1 Pet 1:6; Jas 1:2) leads to calls for endurance for salvation. Endurance relates to “holding fast” to the faith despite trials but also indicates obedience in holiness. 1 Peter 1:14-15 warns his readers not to conform to their sinful “desires” but rather reminds them of God’s holiness and subsequent commands to “be holy.” He describes their redemption (1:17-21) and from this reminds them of the reality of their purification (1:22) and calls them to restore their purity (2:1). Likewise James warns his audience against their desires as the path to death. Instead, he reminds them again of their redemption (1:17-18) as a result of which they should purify themselves (1:21) and seek to worship God in purity and service (1:27). The sheer congruence of vocabulary and ideas within the introductory chapter of each text validates a comparison of their theologies of endurance for salvation.

Redescribing Early Christianity
11/22/2009,  9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Barry Crawford, Washburn University of Topeka, Presiding
Theme: Comparison and Redescription in the Study of Early Christianity

Stephen Young, Brown University
“A Kind of Judean Specialist: Theorizing a Redescription of the Religiosity of James the Brother of Jesus”
We often cripple our ability to deploy sources for studying the religiosity of James the brother of Jesus through problematic assumptions about the proper goals of study. These assumptions often coincide with internal Christian categories and the types of intellectualist discursive-action concerns dominating the fields of studying early Christianity: i.e., religiosity ultimately concerns doctrines/beliefs and “actions” secondarily flowing from them; intellectualist manipulations of texts and doctrines constitute the essence of religiosity, etc. I propose some social-theoretical and historical spadework to make possible a redescription of the religiosity of James. First, I commence with the above concerns: (A) bypassing internal Christian categories we often anachronistically retroject back onto early “Christian” figures and (B) problematizing our implicit theoretical approaches that prioritize quests for doctrines, beliefs, intellectualist manipulations of texts and doctrines, and other such discursively-oriented practices of specialist cultural producers. Second, I pursue plausible cross-cultural categories to orient investigations of James and other Jerusalem Judeans of the 1st century CE. I introduce a typology relevant for categorizing kinds of Judean religiosity in Jerusalem, particularly focusing on what might be termed “everyday kinship-sacrificial religiosity.” As part of this I explore a typology of the kinds of specialists and leaders within these varying types of Judean religiosity. Third, I attempt a consciously theorized socially and historically plausible redescription of James’ religiosity as a form of Jerusalem Judean religiosity. Here I investigate my intuition of James as a specialist of some sort, but operating in relation to a kind of everyday Judean kinship-sacrificial religiosity. While the entire paper remains necessarily introductory, it hopefully demonstrates the productivity of such a consciously re-theorized methodology. This project strives to work out (not simply to “apply”) social theory, especially practice theories similar to those of Pierre Bourdieu and Theodore Schatzki, through redescription of early “Christian” sites.

Homiletics and Biblical Studies
11/22/2009,  4:00 PM to 6:30 PM
Dawn Ottoni Wilhelm, Bethany Theological Seminary, Presiding

Do-Kyun Lim, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
“Rhetoric Sensitive Sermon in the Epistle of James: Revitalizing Biblical Rhetorical Effects from James’ Protreptic Epistle”
Biblical sermons have tended to deliver only propositional ideas or to explain the movement or structure of the text. Scripture, however, contains not only its message but also unique effects for communication. The science of rhetoric might aid contemporary preachers to discern persuasive elements in the biblical texts and, consequently, to revitalize the intended biblical effects in contemporary sermons. Belonging to the protreptic genre, the epistle of James comprises copious rhetorical devices. This presentation will spell out the protreptic features of the epistle of James and its rhetorical devices (i.e., rhetorical questions, directive expressions, repetition, diatribe, metaphor, imperatives, poetic expressions, biblical figures, and personal experiences), and then attempt to reanimate biblical rhetorical impacts in the construction of contemporary biblical sermons.

Construction of Christian Identities
11/23/2009,  9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Adriana Destro, University of Bologna, Presiding
Theme: Rituals, Texts, Individuals and Associations: Competing Ways to Construct Identities? (2)

Kathryn J. Smith, Azusa Pacific University
Family Values: Priestly Constructions of Social Identity in the Jerusalem Assembly”
This paper will address two thorny questions regarding the development of the earliest Jesus groups: 1) what ideological shift occurred to cause the group described in Acts to move its geographic center from the Galilee to Jerusalem? and, 2) what caused this Jerusalem-based Jesus group to radically re-signify its valuation of kinship, a re-signification that resulted in the family of Jesus enjoying an unanticipated surge in status and authority which the author of Luke/Acts acknowledges but never explains? Both of the above changes reflect significant shifts in the group’s ideology and social identity. Both point to contested social space between that presented in Mark and Q, on the one hand, and that indicated in the later layers of Matthew and Luke and in Acts, on the other. Both repeatedly point us to the same two individuals: Mariam, the mother of Jesus, and her son, James. There is sound evidence for an ideological shift in that these changes coincide with evidence for a new set of values, specifically those associated with priestly interests. These values show up in those later literary layers and in Acts, values that the family of Jesus apparently was successful in instituting within the Jerusalem group. They appear in the development of a new veneration for the Temple as symbol, in the use of new literary genres within the texts, genres strongly associated with the tradition of the priests, and in the introduction of newly prominent individuals, characters, and ritual identities. This influence is much more substantial than previously acknowledged and is also deeply significant for gender constructions in that it points to a formative and foundational role for Mariam herself. It helps account for some of the puzzling shifts in the synoptic gospels and contributes to our mapping of the social identities of early Jesus groups.

Mapping Memory: Tradition, Texts, and Identity
11/23/2009,  9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Theme: Memory, Manuscript, and Oral Composition

David Rhoads, Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago
“Performance Memory Aids in the Letter of James”
This keynote paper will explore structural elements of the NT book of James that reflect an oral compositional environment and that assist in live performances of the text. Based on my experience of performing the Letter of James and various studies now available in ancient mnemotechnics, I will identify discourse patterns within James as a means to illustrate features that facilitate memorization and performance of this letter.


2 Responses to “James Papers Coming to SBL – Twelve!”

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