Two Theses on James from St Andrews

When I visited the School of Divinity at the University of St Andrews in Scotland in 2006, I had helpful conversations with then PhD students Mariam Kamell and Chris Chandler. They both completed their programs this year. Congratulations! Both of their PhD theses are related to James. They are available here. Thanks to Jim Darlack over at Old in the New for alerting me to this repository. I have added these references to my Recent James Scholarship and James Bibliography pages. Here are the abstracts…

Kamell, Mariam J. 2010. “The Soteriology of James in Light of Earlier Jewish Wisdom Literature and the Gospel of Matthew.” Ph.D. thesis. St Andrews, Scotland: University of St Andrews.

ABSTRACT:  The epistle of James has been neglected in NT studies, caught between its relationship with Paul and the claim that it has no theology. Even as it experiences a resurgence of study, surprisingly no full-length survey exists on James as the epistle of “faith and works.” Approaches to James have neglected its soteriology and, in consequence, its theological themes have been separated or studied only in connection with Paul. As “moral character,” however, “faith” and “works” fit within a coherent theology of God’s mercy and judgment. This study provides a sustained reading of James as a Jewish-Christian document. Because James presents the “faith” and “works” discussion in context of “can such faith save?” (2:14), the issue becomes one of soteriology and final judgment. Both the “law of freedom” and the “word of truth” demand faithful obedience—the “works.” Moreover, God’s character and deeds in election form the basis for human “works” of mercy and humble obedience, while future judgment is in accordance with virtuous character. It has been established that James shares methodology and concerns with prior wisdom literature. This thesis therefore examines key ideas developing across the Jewish literature and Jesus’ teaching as presented by Matthew, and highlights developing views God saving and judging his people. Within the first two chapters, James gives a high view of God’s work in calling and redeeming, providing wisdom to his people, and instilling long-anticipated new covenant that they might live in obedience, humility and purity in accordance with his character and will. Because of God’s saving work, he justly judges those who fail to live mercifully, while his mercy triumphs for those who obey. God begins the work and sustains those who ask; but only those who submit to the “perfect law of freedom,” whose faith works, receive mercy when God enacts his final justice.

Chandler, Christopher N. 2010. “Blind Injustice : Jesus’ Prophetic Warning Against Unjust Judging (Matthew 7:1-5).” Ph.D thesis. St Andrews, Scotland: University of St Andrews.

ABSTRACT: This dissertation seeks to provide a plausible alternative to the consensus interpretation of Jesus’ “do not judge” teaching in Matt 7:1-5. While the overwhelming majority of recent interpreters understand “do not judge” (7:1) and its concurrent sayings such as “take the log out of your own eye” (7:5) to promote a non-judgmental attitude, this monograph seeks to situate this block of teaching within a Jewish second-Temple judicial setting. To this end, an overview of the judicial system during the second Temple era is provided, after which it is argued that Matt 7:1-5 is the Matthean Jesus’ halakhic, midrashic comment upon the laws for just legal judging in Lev 19:15-18, 35-36 by which he prophetically criticizes unjust legal judging. Jesus’ brother James takes up this teaching in Jas 2:1-13, using it to exhort Jewish Christian leaders who judge cases within Diaspora synagogues/churches. Such an alternative interpretation of Jesus’ “do not judge” teaching in Matt 7:1-5 matches well other passages in Matthew which likewise speak of judicial, brotherly conflict such as 5:21-26 and 18:15-35. Some early Christian writers who quote or allude to Matt 7:1-5 reflect a judicial understanding of these verses as well, often relating Matt 7:1-5 to Lev 19:15-18, 35-36 and/or drawing parallels between Matt 7:1-5 and one or more of the NT judicial texts which, this thesis argues, is related to it (Matt 5:21-26, 18:15-35; Jas 2:1-13).

2 Responses to “Two Theses on James from St Andrews”

  1. Paul Says:

    Thanks for this information! Now we await the availability of your thesis (smile).

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