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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Researching God’s Word, My Sometimes Idol

From my last post, I must recognize that I need to be the learner just as much as the teacher regarding this call from Scott Hafemann that I passed on to my students:

I would like you to think about Greek as loving the Lord with your mind in the same way that you engage in loving the Lord with your heart and your soul and your strength in all the other pursuits of your life.

Oh, how often I need to hear this in my own daily ministry routine. It’s ironic that I can be so deep into God’s word—preparing for a translation session, a teaching assignment, or delving into a biblical research interest—and yet I can easily approach God’s word as a work project devoid of any real relationship with God.

I’m not talking about reading the Bible as a task to be checked off. No, for me it’s that I too often fall in love with the practice of the reading the word instead of loving the Presence of the Word who can speak into every minute of my life. I love my work, and I enjoy the flowers alongside of the road. But I can get so engrossed in the details of the exegetical pathway that I lose sight of the journey’s destination. In this sense, even my time in God’s word can become an idol. It reminds me of something that my first undergraduate Bible teacher, Carl Schultz, used to say at Houghton College:

Make sure that in your exegesis you do not exit Jesus.

I think he was talking about a certain brand of scholars who tend to divorce the divine Jesus from the biblical text. But the warning applies equally well to my pursuit of biblical scholarship without it being a spiritual discipline offered in love to God.

When the study of God’s word lacks devotion to God himself, it could be an idol for me. Do I love my academic discipline more than my Lord and my God?
μὴ γένοιτο. May it never be!

But he gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

James 4.6-8

Lord, give me your grace each day to draw near to you, and won’t you arouse me from my spiritual wandering when I simply follow the daily grind?