Letter of James this week at International SBL

The International Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature takes place this week at King’s College London, walking distance from Westminster Abbey (right). This year marks the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible, but my interest (as usual) pertains to the Letter of James. Below are the abstracts of papers related to the Letter of James being presented this week at the SBL International Meeting…

Alien(n)ation: Reading the Epistle of James through the Psychology of Migration
Program Unit: Psychological Hermeneutics of Biblical Themes and Texts
Margaret Aymer, Interdenominational Theological Center

The epistle of James addresses itself to “the exiles in diaspora.” This paper suggests taking this framing seriously. Using the psychology of migration developed by John Berry and nuanced by diaspora theorists like Avtar Brah, this paper demonstrates that James proposes a migrant stance of alienation vis-a-vis the community’s relationship with home and host culture. Further, James creates a “diaspora space” (Brah) of an “alien nation,” one that exists in but is “unstained” by the cosmos. The paper goes on to suggest the implications of the proposed migrant stances of James and of other New Testament authors for communities that use these ancient texts as scripture. It argues that the “scripturalization” of texts with different migrant stances as the central identifying referent of a community impacts the identity, political engagement, and world stance of that community, regardless of whether the community is, itself, made of migrants.

Redundancy, Discontinuity and Delimitation in the Epistle of James
Program Unit: Hellenistic Greek Language and Linguistics
Steven E. Runge, Logos Bible Software

The letter of James contains a number of instances of nominative or vocative forms of address in contexts where the addressees are already well established. These expressions often co-occur with what form criticism has labeled “disclosure formulas,” and are sometimes associated with marking boundaries within the discourse. This paper examines the role that semantic redundancy plays in judgments about the discourse function of these expressions. It also considers the role location plays on these judgments, both with respect to the clause and the paragraph. It will be demonstrated that when these expressions are not semantically required, they serve as an alternative means to conjunctions for marking new developments within the discourse, and thus play an important role in delimiting pericope boundaries within the epistle.

“…the Scripture Speaks against Envy”: Another Look at James 4:5
Program Unit: Pastoral and Catholic Epistles
Clinton Wahlen, Biblical Research Institute

Despite the predominantly negative usage of phthonos in Greek literature, including its NT usage, a long-standing consensus understands God to be the subject of the clause with pros phthonon in James 4:5. This paper, following a brief survey of proposed solutions, will present a viable alternative that makes better sense of the syntax of the verse within its immediate context (vv. 1-10).

Theme: Book Review: Matt A. Jackson-McCabe, Logos and Law in the Letter of James (Society of Biblical Literature, 2001)
Program Unit: Pastoral and Catholic Epistles

Felix H. Cortez, Universidad de Montemorelos, Presiding
Mariam Kamell, Regent College, Panelist (20 min)
Darian Lockett, Biola University, Panelist (20 min)
A. K. M. Adam, University of Glasgow, Panelist (20 min)
Matt Jackson-McCabe, Cleveland State University, Respondent (30 min)
Discussion (40 min)

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A Dozen SBL Papers on James

As in 2009, the 2010 Annual Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature includes twelve papers related to James and his letter. This year the meeting takes place in Atlanta, Georgia from November 20 – 23. These twelve papers will be delivered during eight different sessions representing seven different program units…

Letters of James, Peter, and Jude
11/20/2010
1:00 PM to 3:30 PM

Theme: James and Q/Early Jesus Tradition
These papers will only be summarized so as to allow maximum discussion. The papers will be distributed in advance to all those who have added their name to the Letters of James, Peter, and Jude Section list in past years. If you have not yet added your name to this list, you may do so by contacting Robert Webb.

Robert Webb, McMaster University, Presiding

Dale C. Allison, Jr., Pittsburgh Theological Seminary
The Jesus Tradition in James 4.1-12
James 4.1-12 is intertextually rich. It consistently interaacts with the Jewish Bible–borrowing several scriptural idioms, quoting an unknown “graphe,” citing Prov 3:34, and interpreting Lev 19.15-18–and further makes good use of the Jesus tradition. V. 3 ironically takes up the Q text in Mt 7.7-8 = Lk 11.9-10. Vv. 11-12 interpret Lev 19:15-18 through the lens of another Q text, Mt 7.1-5 = Lk 6.37, 41-42. And 4.20 might be partly inspired by Lk 6.25 (Q?).

Alicia Batten, University of Sudbury
The Impact of an Urban Setting on Jesus Traditions in James
Although little consensus exists as to the provenance of the Letter of James, scholars have noticed details in the missive, such as the references to fine clothes, rings and crowns, and thematic elements, including allusions to philosophical concepts, that support an urban setting. The rhetoric and overall elegance of the document also suggests that it was written for an audience that would have appreciated such literary sophistication. This paper begins by reviewing some of the thematic and literary aspects of James that point to a city or town as its site of origin. It then turns to some of the parallels between James and teachings associated with Jesus (the paper concurs with many scholars that there are connections between a form of Jesus sayings and James) in order to analyse how James’ urban environment has influenced the manner in which the author adapts some of these antecedent traditions.

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 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). A social-scientific examination of the Israelite value of ‘wholeness’ demonstrates that this value is reflected equally in James and Q. Patterns of all-or-nothing (characteristic of the Israelite value of wholeness) are common to James and Q. Some examples that are examined: 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 illustrates 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.

David A. Kaden, University of Toronto
Stoicism, Social Stratification, and the Q Tradition in James: A Suggestion about James’ Audience
James is addressed to “the twelve tribes in the Diaspora”. “Twelve tribes” has been interpreted as a metaphor for “Christians”. But if the greeting is taken at face value, then James’ audience would be Diaspora Judaeans, and the letter itself would be situated in the larger milieu of Hellenistic Judaism. There were several Diasporic centers in antiquity. This paper will argue that James’ audience was in Rome in the early second century CE. This assumes of course that “James” is a pseudonym. Other scholars have argued for a Roman provenance based, for example, on connections between James and the Shepherd of Hermas. This paper is intended to substantially strengthen this hypothesis. First, by detailing linguistic similarities between James and the Stoic Epictetus, who began his teaching career in Rome. Second, by examining how James adapts the Jesus tradition from Q for an audience higher up the social register than the Q people. Finally, by analyzing James’ rhetorical usage of the categories “rich” and “poor” to situate the audience somewhere in between. When these data are linked with the social situation in Rome in the early second century CE after the Dacian Wars led by Trajan, a remarkable picture emerges. Trajan’s wars precipitated an economic revival in the capital city, and the letter of James seems to reflect this. The writer’s affinity for Stoicism, the ideology of the Roman “bourgeois”, locks together nicely with the adaptation of the Q tradition for an audience higher up the social register. It also explains why the writer rhetorically locates the audience between the rich and poor, on the one hand urging them to care for the latter, and on the other warning them not to become greedy like the former.

John Kloppenborg, University of Toronto, Respondent

Violence and Representations of Violence among Jews and Christians
11/20/2010
1:00 PM to 3:30 PM

Theme: First Martyrs

Shelly Matthews, Furman University
The Second-Century Construction of the First Christian Martyr: Acts’ Stephen and Hegessipus’ James
This paper argues that Acts’ narrative of the Stoning of Stephen and Hegessipus’ narrative of the martyrdom of James are variations on the same trope. While Hegessipus is typically characterized as a “Jewish-Christian,” and the author of Acts clearly privileges a more Hellenistic, “Pauline” Christianity, both authors employ nearly identical means to construct the first Christian martyr.

Speech and Talk: Discourses and Social Practices in the Ancient Mediterranean World
11/20/2010
4:00 PM to 6:30 PM

Jeremy Hultin, Yale University
James and the Abusive Tongue
In terms of the content of its advice about speech, the Epistle of James is largely conventional. What is not so common is the way James sets the tongue at the heart of a cosmic and primeval struggle. True religion, says James, consists in keeping oneself “unstained by the world” (1:27), but the tongue — which is itself “the unrighteous world” — stains the body (3:6). The defiling world is present in the human body. The tongue sets “the wheel of creation aflame” and is itself “set on fire by hell.” The tongue is not only a portal between Hell and Creation, but it, unlike the animals (!), has not been brought under human control (3:7-8). James has, in effect, configured “the world,” “religion,” and “the tongue” in such a way so that to use the tongue improperly is actually to grant “the world” access to one’s mouth. Thus the male and female addressees are alike “adulteresses” (4:4). Whereas most Greeks and Romans viewed abusive language as the mark of a manly brio (cf. Catullus 16 or Priapic poetry), in James’s apocalyptic discourse, verbal assaults constitute a sexual humiliation.

The KJV at 400: Assessing its Genius as Bible Translation and its Literary Influence
11/20/2010
4:00 PM to 6:30 PM

Scot McKnight, North Park University
KJV Theology/Exegesis through the Lens of James
No abstract available.

Letters of James, Peter, and Jude
11/21/2010
9:00 AM to 11:30 AM

Theme: Open Papers

David A. deSilva, Ashland Theological Seminary
James and the Testament of Job: The Evidence for Intertextuality
The prominence of the language of “patient endurance” (makrothymia, hypomone) in James 5:7-11, thematic also throughout T. Job 1-27, together with the explicit mention of Job as exemplary in this regard, typically invite some comparison between the two texts. The connections between the passages, however, are more intricate than scholars usually discern. The passage from James is a well-constructed argument promoting the virtue of endurance, specifically with an eye to God’s future intervention, as in the Testament. Job’s example serves directly to support the call to “patiently endure” (Jas 5:7), as it does in Job’s commendation of this virtue to his children (T. Job 27:7). James adds a rationale to explain the cause of the happy outcome of Job’s endurance: “because the Lord is very sympathetic and compassionate” (Jas 5:11), qualities of God that also promote endurance in T. Job. 26.4-6. Both – and, as far as I can tell, only – James and the Testament invoke these qualities of God specifically as a rationale for endurance and an assurance of the better consequences that attend endurance in connection with Job’s story. James and Testament of Job, unlike canonical Job, do not raise the problem of suffering without knowing why. Both texts prepare readers to interpret sufferings and challenges as “trials” by means of which virtue can be tested, proven, and eventually rewarded, even crowned with victory (Jas 1:12; T. Job 4:10). This fundamental orientation runs throughout both texts. While the difficulties arriving at consensus regarding the date of Testament of Job give one pause in arguing for direct literary dependency, the linguistic, rhetorical, and thematic connections between James and the Testament suggest some kind of close relationship between the two documents, with the former presupposing the traditions expressed – and the formulations in which they are expressed – of the latter.

Historical Jesus
11/21/2010
4:00 PM to 6:30 PM

Theme: The Historical Jesus in Recent Research

John Paul Dickson, Macquarie University
The Epistle of James as a “Source” for the Historical Jesus
Pursuing a recent suggestion of Prof James H. Charlesworth that the letter of James perhaps “should be recognized as a source for Jesus” this paper examines the methodological issues involved in such a line of inquiry. Scholars have long noted the unusual number of allusions to Jesus traditions in this epistle. While most think it unlikely that this material is directly dependent on one or more of the canonical Gospels, most agree that the affinities between James and Q are impressive. This paper argues that the author of the epistle self-consciously portrays himself throughout as a custodian of the words of Jesus and that this fact heightens the need to unravel the puzzle of whether James is simply a third witness to Q or an independent witness to Jesus.

Jewish Christianity / Christian Judaism
11/22/2010
9:00 AM to 11:30 AM

Petri Luomanen, University of Helsinki
Jesus’ appearance to James the Just
In Illustrious Men, Jerome describes how Jesus appeared to his brother, James the Just: “But the Lord after he had given linen cloth to the servant of the priest, went to James and appeared to him (for James had sworn that he would not eat bread from the hour in which he drank the cup of the Lord until he had seen him rising again from those who sleep), and again, a little later, it says: Bring the table and bread, said the Lord. And immediately it is added: He brought bread and blessed and brake it and gave it to James the Just and said to him: My brother, eat thy bread for the Son of Man is risen from those who sleep.” (Jerome, Vir. Ill. 2; Trans. Klijn, Jewish-Christian Gospel Tradition, 1992).” The Eucharistic allusions of the passage have often been noted but they have not been paid much attention in the discussion about the passage, except that a meal is recognized as one of the usual settings for Jesus’ appearance. Usually it is also assumed that one of the basic motives behind the passage is to provide a story of James as a witness of resurrection, mentioned in Cor 15:7 but not described in the canonical gospels. But why does the story include James’ vow? The paper explores the possibility that the vow is related to the so-called “Easter controversy” that arose towards the end of second century between Asian and other dioceses (Eusebius, Hist. eccl. V 23-25). The controversy concerned the timing of Easter and, consequently, the length of “Christian” Easter fast: should it always end on “the day of Savior’s resurrection” or on the fourteenth of Nisan.

Søren Kierkegaard Society
11/22/2010
1:00 PM to 3:30 PM

Theme: Kierkegaard, Hermeneutics, and the Epistle of James
This session will give special attention to Kierkegaard’s interpretive practice in regard to the Epistle of James and the Johannine writings. The ways in which his theological convictions shaped his reading of Scripture and his reading of Scripture shaped his theological convictions will be explored.

Paul Martens, Baylor University
Grace in Creation: Kierkegaard on James 1:18 and the Condition for Receiving Gods Gifts
Luke Timothy Johnson, following Richard Bauckham (1999), claims that Kierkegaard “does not so much try to figure out what James meant as to consider what his own life means in light of James” (2004, 243). The purpose of this paper is to challenge the either/or implicit in Johnson’s assessment by attending to Kierkegaard’s interpretation of James 1:18. In the intense scholarly debates surrounding this passage, there are three basic options concerning who is brought forth by the “word of truth”: humanity, Jews, or Christians. In his idiosyncratic “upbuilding discourses” devoted to James 1:17-22, Kierkegaard seems oblivious to the minute details of this debate. Yet, this paper displays how a careful reading of Kierkegaard’s 1843 “Every Good Gift” discourse places him right in the middle of the debate. In short, this paper shows how Kierkegaard’s exegetical reflections on James 1:18 provide a sort of theological anthropology, an account of how God’s grace is the first word: God extends grace to all humanity in that God creates everyone with the absolute need for God, a good and perfect gift that (a) must be awakened and (b) can only be satisfied by the gift of the received Word (James 1:21). The proposed paper begins by briefly summarizing the scholarly debates surrounding this verse. Second, in conversation with Timothy Polk (1997) and Bauckham, it carefully examines Kierkegaard’s cryptic comments in the second of “Four Upbuilding Discourses” published in 1843. Third, it explores related texts in Kierkegaard’s corpus—“To Need God is a Human Being’s Highest Perfection” (1844), Philosophical Fragments (1844), and Works of Love (1847)—to illuminate the depth of Kierkegaard’s interpretive insight. In conclusion, coming full circle, the paper argues that it is precisely through considering his own life in light of James that Kierkegaard passionately sought to interpret what James meant.

Richard B. Purkarthofer, Howard V. and Edna H. Hong Kierkegaard Library
Kierkegaard’s First Love: On the Role of the Epistle of James in Kierkegaard’s Authorship
As early as 1835-36, we find Kierkegaard translating portions of the Epistle of James from Greek into Latin. References and allusions to the Epistle are to be found throughout Kierkegaard’s subsequent writings. In what would become his last edifying discourse, in the last year of his life, Kierkegaard returned once more to a pericope from the Epistle, calling it “my first love.” My proposed paper will survey the Epistle’s significance for Kierkegaard’s authorship as a whole. Following a brief historical account of Kierkegaard’s use of James, I will investigate a number of stylistic features common to the Epistle and to Kierkegaard’s writings (both published and unpublished). These include dialogical elements, the use of fictive interlocutors, rhetorical questions, and other features typical of the Cynic/Stoic diatribe form, along with the use of Stichwortverbindungen. I will then turn to a number of Kierkegaardian concepts that are heavily influenced by the Epistle of James, such as despair, purity/purification, and simple-mindedness. By way of conclusion, I will comment on evidence from Kierkegaard’s own copies of the Bible. This includes underlining, notes, and other marks in the Epistle of James, presumably by Kierkegaard’s own hand. I will cite this evidence to support key details of my proposed account of the stylistic and conceptual influence of the Epistle of James on Kierkegaard.