I noted yesterday that there was a book review session this week at the Society of Biblical Literature International Meeting in London on Matt Jackson-McCabe’s 2001 publication, Logos and Law in the Letter of James. What?!
A friend wrote me this morning and said, “It’s 2011. . . Isn’t it a little bit late to be holding a review session on Jackson-McCabe’s “Logos & Law” (pub 2001)? ☺” Indeed. Why is there now a book review session on this work, ten years after its appearance (13 years if you count the date of its appearance as a doctoral thesis)? It certainly seems a bit odd.
Apparently this panel discussion occurred three days ago, but I haven’t seen any blog postings about it. I’m curious to hear what came of this discussion. For my part, I suggest that the book review submitted by Matthias Konradt in the Journal of Biblical Literature in the Spring of 2003 (vol. 122, no. 1) was quite adequate. I copy here Konradt’s concluding remarks…
Jackson-McCabe has enriched the discussion of the understanding of the “word,” which is important for the general understanding of James, with a new and interesting variant. Especially important in this context is the case he makes for not rashly isolating different strands of traditions. His interpretation of James, however, does not bear critical scrutiny. Contrary to Jackson-McCabe‘s assertion (see, e.g., p.133), the phrase ἔμφυτος λόγος can hardly be proven to be a terminus technicus on the basis of seldom, widely strewn, and—in addition—inexact references. Furthermore, Jackson-McCabe does not discuss other usages of ἔμφυτος at all (Philo, for example, uses this word only in the context of vices). And a passage such as Barn. 9.9 (ὁ τὴν ἔμφυτον δωρεὰν τῆς διδαχῆς αὐτοῦ θέμενος) plays no part in Jackson-McCabe‘s analysis.
However, the fact that Jackson-McCabe does not succeed in invalidating the traditional objections to the Stoic interpretation of 1:21 is more important. That the logos as innate human reason has an external form in the “law of freedom” is hardly a sufficient explanation for the phrase “to receive the logos,” or, respectively, “to hear and do the logos.” To use the terminology of Apos. Con. 8.9.8, the νόμος γραπτός is precisely not what is to be received in James, but rather the ἔμφυτος λόγος itself. Most of all, Jackson-McCabe passes over the traditio-historical roots in the early Christian tradition of 1:18 and 21, which are central to his interpretation. The two-part scheme in 1:21, in which the negative part is formulated with ἀποτίθεσθαι, has a number of early Christian parallels that belong to the context of postconversional instruction (Rom 13:12–14; Eph 4:22–24; Col 3:8–10; 1 Pet 2:1–2), and these are the only occurrences of this scheme. Moreover, Jas 1:18 corresponds closely to 1 Pet 1:23–25 (Jackson-McCabe dismisses it too quickly; see p. 191). This strongly suggests that James has taken over the entire sequence in 1:18, 21 from an early Christian tradition, which interpreted conversion as a (re-)birth through the word of the gospel leading the convert to the truth, and combined this with the admonition to follow this word from now on. In this context, ἔμφυτος is to be read as a reference back to the birth metaphor in 1:18. And the law in Jas 1:25 is not identical with the word or its external form, but rather is one side or aspect of it.
Furthermore, Jackson-McCabe‘s interpretation of the “lights” in Jas 1:17 is hazardous at best. There is no hint at all in the text that James intended to create an analogy between the “lights” and the human race. Finally, 1:18b does not comment on the exalted position of humans in creation, but the ἀπαρχή is the part of God’s creatures set apart for him. Philo (Spec. 4.180) uses the word with reference to the chosen nation (cf. Rev 14:4; 1 Clem. 29.3), and in following this traditional line Jas 1:18 refers to those who became God’s possession by converting to the Christian faith in a similar manner.