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?
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New Fragment of James from Oxyrhynchus

Michael Theophilos, University of Oxford, will be presenting a paper at the November Society of Biblical Literature annual meeting in Boston on A New Fragment of James from Oxyrhynchus

Here is the abstract from the SBL program book…

It is not insignificant that 42% of published New Testament papyri are from Oxyrhynchus, Egypt. Furthermore, of the fifty-eight NT papyri dated to the first half of the fourth century or earlier, Oxyrhynchus contributes to nearly 60% of the material, i.e. thirty four fragmentary papyri. Given Oxyrhynchus’ prominence, prosperity and significant Christian influence this is somewhat understandable, even if it is equally as baffling as to why so much literature, both biblical and otherwise was ‘thrown out’ en masse, only to be found centuries later by two Oxford graduates, B. P. Grenfell and A. S. Hunt of Queen’s College. The primary research that will be undertaken in this study concerns an assessment of a previously unknown New Testament papyrus fragment of the epistle of James from Oxyrhynchus (inventory number 51 4B.18/c [1-4]b). The significance of this study is to offer original and focused research into the history of the textual tradition of the New Testament. Discussion of the fragment will be divided into three sections. Firstly, an extended introduction which will note, among other things, the paleographic points of interest – roll/codex, recto/verso, date, lines/width/height of columns, estimated length of roll and significant reading marks (accents, breathings, quantity marks, punctuation). Secondly, an edited Greek text, both diplomatic and transcriptional (with a short description of how multi-spectral imaging aided in this process, and finally, a section devoted to issues which require further treatment, including exegetical comment, notable paleographic details and collation with other extant manuscripts. Images of the papyri will be included in the presentation.