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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.

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.

Papers on James at SBL

Wow, I thought the Society of Biblical Literature section on “Letters of James, Peter, and Jude” was supposed to focus on 1 Peter this year, and it does. But it turns out that there is a general session concerning any of these letters, so there are several papers included on James in this and other sections.

In the “Letters of James, Peter, and Jude” section,

  • Erin Vearncombe (University of Toronto) will presenting on “Ill-Skilled Postmen and the Addressees of James: The Socio-rhetorical Function of the Prescript of James“…

The prescript of James serves an important socio-rhetorical function which provides the key to understanding the purpose of the paraenetic letter as a whole, establishing a guide for exegesis. James 1:1 is the only epistolary element in the document, yet the identification of the (fictive) sender James and the (fictive) audience of the twelve tribes is essential to the interpretation of the text. The address of James “to the twelve tribes in the Diaspora,” along with the pseudepigraphical identification of the author, functions to signal the rhetorical strategy of the letter, acting as a guide for the interpretation of the social world which is constructed in the document. A discussion of previous approaches to the prescript and epistolary status of James, including the characterization of James as a Judean Diaspora letter, an analysis of the pseudepigraphical character of James and the construction of ethos in the letter and a comparison of the text to other Greco-Roman paraenetic letters in terms of the primary importance of status association and negotiation in paraenesis will help to shed light on this socio-rhetorical functioning of the prescript.

  • Christopher N. Chandler (University of St. Andrews-Scotland) will be presenting on “Jesus and James on Justice in the Courts: A Reconsideration of the Ward/Allison Proposal“…

When interpreters of James come to the discussion about the seating of the rich and the poor in 2:1-13, they are faced with two interpretive options. The majority of recent interpreters, based upon parallel passages in later church orders, opt to understand this to be about seating arrangements in an early Christian worship service. A minority position, which is often noted but rarely taken seriously, is that 2:1-13 depicts an ancient judicial setting between two litigants. This latter position was argued for by R. B. Ward in his 1966 dissertation and a subsequent article in 1969. D. C. Allison demonstrated convincingly in 2000 that Ward’s position, far from being new, was a viable interpretive option among a majority of scholars prior to the 20th century. This paper seeks to build upon the ‘Ward/Allison’ thesis that 2:1-13 depicts an ancient litigious scene in two ways: 1) by demonstrating a significant but rarely noticed parallel between James 2:1-13 and Matthew 7:1-5, and 2) by uncovering the exegetical underpinnings of both of these passages in their halakhic, midrashic engagement with Lev 19:15-18—a section of laws governing just legal judging. Some of the theological implications such an interpretive shift of 2:1-13 might have upon the discussion of faith and works in James 2:14-26 may also be explored.

Chris is a great guy and met me at the SBL international conference in Edinburgh when I visited there in 2006. He gave me some good insights into PhD programs in Scotland and living in St Andrews with a family. Wish I could be there to hear your paper in person, Chris!

In a joint session between the “Letters of James, Peter, and Jude” section and the “Philo of Alexandria” section

  • John S. Kloppenborg (University of Toronto) will be presenting on “Stoic Psychagogy and the Letter of James“…

Interpreters have occasionally noted the coincidence between James’ vocabulary and technical terms of Stoicism, usually dismissing them as coincidental. This paper argues that in significant ways, James shares with Stoicism notions of care of the soul, control of the epithymiai, and the role of rational persuasion in the guidance of the soul.

  • Luiz Felipe Ribeiro (University of Toronto) will present on “Self-Mastery, Apatheia, Metriopatheia, and Moral Theory in the Epistle of James“…

The reading of the Stoics’ influence on James received little support and only very recently got a comprehensive treatment in Matt A. Jackson-McCabe’s “Logos and Law in the Letter of James: the Law of Nature, the Law of Moses and the Law of Freedom.” Before “Logos and Law in the Letter of James,” Jackson-McCabe contends, two lonely treatments of the Epistle allowed for a straight connection between James and Stoic Philosophy. Arnold Meyer in 1930, and M.-E. Boismard in 1957, independently argued that implanted logon (Jas 1,21) and the Perfect Law of Freedom (Jas 1,25) were drawn by the author of the Epistle from a Greek environment, particularly from Stoicism. According to Jackson-McCabe, James’ use of Implanted Logos derived from the early Stoa understanding of Émphutoi Prolepseis (Implanted Preconceptions). This paper proposes to add to Jackson-McCabe’s thesis of Stoic influences in James’ psychology and moral theory. It argues that the pseudonym Yakob might be read in light of the Jewish Hellenistic reception of Stoicism of the idea of the Stoic sage who achieves apatheia, or of the sage who is striving to control his passions through moderation (metriopatheia). This conflation of the Jewish Patriarch and Stoic sage can be seen in the figure of Joseph in the Testaments of the XII Patriarchs and in Abraham, Isaac and Yakob in Philo of Alexandria. The Epistle of James is seen deriving its own ideas about the sage from the Jewish Hellenistic reception of Stoicism and the tradition of the haploûs sophos, the single-minded sage, the man who is the embodiment of simplicity, showing no sign of duplicity, listening and practicing the Logos (Jas 1, 33-35) [sic!].

In the “New Testament Textual Criticism” section,

  • Michael Theophilos (University of Oxford) will present on “A New Fragment of James from Oxyrhynchus.” See my previous post for abstract. This paper is listed for the morning of 22 November and the afternoon of 23 November. Does this merely reflect the preliminary nature of the online program book? Or is this two parts of the same paper? Who knows?