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Archive for New Testament

Excellent Richard Hays interview

My Interview w/ Richard B. Hays of Duke University « Hesed we ’emet.

James 5:1 – Come now, you rich…

James 5:1 is an introductory pronouncement that contains or alludes to the major themes of the rest of the passage.  It does not adhere to the triadic formula I will propose for 5:2-6, but it does acquaint the reader to the elements that are to be found within the suggested framework.  I view the verse as an opening summation in which we may find reasoned connections with the primary argument of James 5:2-6.  The verse will alert the reader to the literary audience of the indictment and to the certainty of their guilt.  But more importantly, the opening verse will prepare the reader by making textual allusions and suggesting various motifs.

Age nun hoi plousioi – The prohet-like summons, Age nun hoi plousioi, readily calls to mind the similar opening James utilizes in the previous section of his indictment (4:13 – Age nun hoi legontes).  The verbal parallel begs to question whether “the rich men” (hoi plousioi) are to be equated with “the ones who say” (hoi legontes), and whether and to what extent the two pericope (4:13-17 and 5:1-6) should be considered as part of one unit of thought.  One option is to view the indictment on “the rich” introduced in 5:1 as the continuation of the indictment on the eager merchants in 4:13-17,[1] and “that one and the same group of persons is addressed on repeated occasions.”[2] If one assumes a Christian audience is addressed in 4:13-17, then “the rich” of 5:1 would also be classified as such.[3] Aside from the identical beginnings, the argument is made that James would appear “blundering and ineffective” had he addressed unbelievers to whom the letter was not intended.[4] It is quite possible that James’ community did include some rich adelphoi (1:9-11).  However, this too is a disputed point.[5] In fact, of the three times plousios is used with the definite article (1:11; 2:6; 5:1) it is never clear whether “the rich” represents a definable group.  In chapter 2 it may be presumed that “the rich man” is a visitor to the community, but one cannot be sure whether he is or is not a Christian.[6]

The argument for equating the rich with the merchants has not been conclusive.  Instead the evidence for separating them into two groups — one inside the community of believers, the other outside — is the most convincing.  The denunciation of the rich merchants (4:13-17) is essentially an “exhortation concerning pride,” that is inhered with a call to repentance.[7] Conversely, in 5:1-6 James paints a picture of the rich that makes it difficult to believe that they are members of the Christian community and offers no sign of hope for their deliverance.[8] In addition, the very language of economics might recall for the audience the Jewish (Psalm 86; Tobit 2:2; 1QH 13.20) and Christian (Luke 4:18; 7:22; Matt. 11:5) notion of the pious poor, which would immediately set “the rich” outside of the community.[9] What matters most for our purposes is that James does not continue an original denunciation that began at 4:13; he rather begins a new accusation that is directed toward a group outside the community of (poor?) believers.

In addition to the intratextual elements evoked by the passage’s opening summons, we find the call to the rich recalling similar invocations in the Prophets (Amos 4:1; Micah 3:1-4), Jewish apocalyptic literature (1 Enoch 94:6-100:13; esp. 94:8), and Jesus traditions (Luke 6:24-26; esp. 6:24).[10] It is not uncommon to address groups of people (especially “the rich”!) in a rhetorical manner.  The actual presence of the addressee(s) is not required for the message to have effect.  With his rhetorical use of the vocative and his address moving to those outside the community, this is the case in James 5:1-6.

klausate ololuzontes – The tone introduced in the opening summons is heightened somewhat by the use of the imperative and participle.  Whether ololuzein is defining klaio[11] or simply serves as an attendant circumstance is irrelevant to the command’s overall force.  Though a hapax legomenon in the New Testament, the onomatopoeic ololuzein (cp. “howl” in English) is used over 20 times in the LXX.  Interestingly all LXX uses are found in the Prophets with a striking majority in Isaiah (10:10; 13:6; 14:31; 15:3; 23:1, 14; see also Zech. 11:2; Amos 8:3; Jer. 31:20).  It should be noted, in analyzing James 5:1-6, that many of these prophetic uses have inanimate objects or nations as references (“howl you idols”, Isa. 10:10; “Howl you ships of Carthage,” Isa. 23:1, 14; “Let the pine howl,” Zech. 11:2; “ceilings howl,” Amos 8:3; Isa. 15:3 is part of oracle against Moab), who are directed to howl because of foreboding destruction (see especially Isa. 13:6, “Howl, for the day of the Lord is near.”).

epi tais talaiporiais humon tais eperchomanais – James draws his brief introduction to a close with a general explanation of why the rich should begin to weep and howl.  This opening summation further creates a tone that resonates with the prophetic and apocalyptic manner of condemnation and may insinuate a legal motif within his argument.  Along with klaio, talaiporiais surely recalls the imperatives in 4:9 (klausate and talaiporesate) with a certain ironic effect in that “there the wretchedness, with weeping, is self-imposed as an expression of repentance in the hope of divine forgiveness; here the weeping of the rich can only be an expression of their horror at the disaster inflicted upon them.”[12] Talaiporia is found in the LXX mainly within the prophetic books, where they are describing the miseries suffered by those, or because of those, who have resisted God (Isa. 47:11; 59:7; 60:18; Jer. 4:20; 6:7; Hos. 9:6; Joel 1:15; Amos 3:10; 5:9; Hab. 1:3; Zeph. 1:15). The only other NT occurrence, apart from James 5:1, is in Romans 3:16, and even there Paul quotes Isaiah 59:7.  However, we find words delivered in a similar vein when John the Baptist issues a vituperative declaration to the multitudes seeking baptism: “Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” (Luke 3:7).  C. Boggan explains the general idea when he states, “the miseries are the sufferings which, for sinners, follow judgment.”[13] When seen in conjunction with the attributive participle (eperchomenais) the approaching miseries culminate a very threatening introduction that contains elements that are to be developed as the accusations ensue.

Though the introduction of v.1 is not properly contained within the main body of our tripartite structure, it serves to introduce briefly many of the contributing themes.  First, the very language of this opening resounds with ancient Jewish tones, primarily those with prophetic and apocalyptic overtures.  Second, for those familiar with the tradition of Jesus, the tone of the prelude to this passage would begin to point them once more to his teachings.[14] Third, the idiomatic beginning Age nun hoi plousioi directs the interpreter to look within the entire book of James for full understanding of certain concepts.  Fourth, by performing the intratextual exercise with regard to “weeping” and “miseries”, and the intertextual exercise with regard to prophetic censures, we can draw out the themes of irony and folly.[15] Lastly, I would like to propose that even here in the introductory declaration James is recalling legal images.  Just as the prophetic images and the approaching miseries evoke thoughts of a divine judgment, so here James intends to imagine a similar justice.  Though not a direct analogy, James acts in a way similar to a lawyer who is certain of the guilt of those charged.  The rich may as well begin to weep and howl even now, for it is true that they have committed the crimes that have yet to be described.

[1] cf. Reicke, The Epistles of James, Peter, and Jude, 50.

[2] Bent Noack, “Jakobus wider die Reichen,” Studia Theologica 18, 1 (1964), 12.

[3] In addition to Reicke, 37 and Noack, 12, see also, Boggan, “Wealth in the Epistle of James,” 213, and Kelly, “Poor and Rich in the Epistle of James,” 219.  Also, see David H. Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary, Fifth (New York: Jewish New Testament Publications, 1996), 740, whose primary reason for identifying “the rich” with members of the community is to avoid feeding antisemitic caricatures. As far as I can tell Todd C. Penner, The Epistle of James and Eschatology: Re-Reading an Ancient Christian Letter, Journal for the Study of the New Testament Supplement Series, 121 (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1996), 172-77, is the only recent work to maintain 4:13ff. and 5:1ff. as a “unified condemnation,” (173) to “people outside the community,” (177, n.2).

[4] Boggan, “Wealth in the Epistle of James,” 213.  cf. R. J. Knowling, The Epistle of St. James with an Introduction and Notes, third edition, Westminster Commentaries, ed. Walter Lock (London: Metheun & Co., 1922), 116.

[5] Ralph P. Martin, James, Word Biblical Commentary, v. 48 (Waco, TX: Word, 1988), 25-26.

[6] Adamson, The Epistle of James, 30.

[7] Martin, James, 175; cf. Pedrito U. Maynard-Reid, Poverty and Wealth in James (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1987), 81.

[8] Robert G. Bratcher, “Exegetical Themes in James 3-5,” Review and Expositor 66 (1969), 409; cf. Dibelius, James, 230, 235; Elsa Tamez, “James,” chap. 22 in Searching the Scriptures, Volume Two, A Feminist Commentary, ed. Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza (New York: Crossroad, 1997), 97; Maynard-Reid, Poverty and Wealth in James, 82; James B. Adamson, The Epistle of James, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, ed. F. F. Bruce (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 1976), 184; and Martin, James, 175.  Timothy B. Cargal, Restoring the Diaspora: Discursive Structure and Purpose in the Epistle of James, SBL Dissertation Series, 144, edited by Pheme Perkins (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1993), agrees with the characterization of “the rich” as outsiders (172), but, in support of his overall thesis and in conjunction with his semiotic approach, he finds the possibility that the indictment “may…lead the rich to repentance,” (182).

[9] See Dibelius, James, 39-45, for further explication of the pious-poor motif.

[10] This style of address to the rich is continued even in early Christian literature.  See for example Herm. Vis. 3.9.6

[11] Davids, The Epistle of James, 175.

[12] Laws, A Commentary on the Epistle of James, 197-198.

[13] Boggan, “Wealth in the Epistle of James,” 216.

[14] For two examples of scholarship in the past decade that has analyzed the whole of the Epistle of James and its relationship to the Gospels see Dean B. Deppe, The Sayings of Jesus in the Epistle of James (Chelsea, MI: Bookcrafters, 1989), and Patrick J. Hartin, James and the Q Sayings of Jesus, Journal for the Study of the New Testament, Supplemental Series, 47, ed. David Hill (Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1991).

[15] As we will see, it is the ironic twist provided in James’ declarations of accusation and punishment that contributes to the illustration of folly.

What is New Testament Theology?

Since this morning when Michael Bird posted a link to his Tyndale Fellowship Lecture, I’ve been wondering what is the appeal of keeping alive the genre of New Testament Theology. More to the point, I’ve been wondering just what is New Testament Theology. I’m not even a third of the way into Mike’s very fine essay—I’m only able to read in fits and starts; I do have manuscripts to edit!—but I get the since that he is advocating for a discipline/genre (whatever we may classify NTT as) that is essentially an encapsulation of NT studies. Don’t get me wrong, in the words of Jerry Seinfeld, “Not that there’s anything wrong with that.” I appreciate good NTTs. After their initial hype, they tend to wind up as good references for methodology and comprehensive sketches of the NT literature. That’s why the better ones tend to have a very long shelf life. But still, I have a hard time seeing the difference between the aims of one’s NTT and the aims of one’s overall approach to NT studies. What sets NTT apart?

I’m anxious to read the rest of Mike’s essay, and I will be on the look out for his Theology of the New Covenant. I’m sad that we could not be the publisher for it. It would have been a nice complement to the New Covenant Commentary Series.

I’d be interested to hear thoughts on the shape and nature of NTT.

The Irony of James 5:1-6 – Structural Observations

Just as the structure of the entire epistle remains uncertain, the structure of 5:1-6 remains a matter for debate.  It is understandable that the exegesis of the pericope has led to a variety of structural opinions.  In future posts I will be responding to many points found within these proposed structures.  To this end it is necessary to provide the two major structures that have been proposed by modern scholarship.[1] In addition I will also mention the observations that will direct our own exegesis and the emerging tripartite framework that will be developed later.

The traditional arrangement of the passage is a two-fold division.  The first portion announces and illustrates the “coming miseries” of the rich men (vv. 1-3).  The second portion then describes the incriminating actions of the rich that led to their miseries (vv. 4-6).  A modified version of the traditional structure keeps the same two-fold division but views v. 2 as a description of themiseries, v. 3d as the first reason for the coming miseries, v. 4 as an illustration, and v. 5 as either the continuation of v. 3d or the second charge.  The outlines are as follows:

  1. Announcement of miseries (v. 1)
    • Rotted Wealth (vv. 2-3a)
    • Witness and testimony of rust (v. 3b,c)
    • Worthlessness of tre asuring (v. 3d)
  2. Reasons for miseries
    • Withholding wages (v. 4)
    • Living luxuriously (v. 5)
    • Murdering the righteous(v. 6)


  1. Announcement of miseries (v.1)
  2. Description of miseries (v. 2)
  3. Reasons for miseries
    • Hoarding treasure (v.3d, [v.5])
      • Illustration (v.4)
    • [Luxuriously living (v.5)]
    • Murdering the righteous (v.6)

A second structure frames the passage into a list of accusations leveled on the rich.  The number of charges is varied depending on whether one chooses to delineate v. 5 as a separate accusation or as part of the accusation in v. 4.  The general outline would appear as follows:

  1. Announcement of miseries (v. 1)
  2. Accusations
    • Hoarding (vv. 2-3)
    • Withholding (v. 4, [v. 5])
    • [Living luxuriously (v. 5)]
    • Murdering (v. 6)

Three initial observations direct our own investigation.  First, the various objects that turn against the rich, such as the rust in v. 3 and the wages and harvesters in v. 4 pique my interest for possible connections and resulting implications of these objects as accusers.  Second, the similar eschatological phrases of vv. 3 and 5 guide us to ask questions about the function of eschatological imagery.  Third, the concluding phrase of v. 6 seems to be out of place, or at the least, anti-climactic.  I am concerned then, to discover how this phrase connects with the rest of the passage.

These three observations are mentioned here only to foreshadow the issues that influence the tripartite view that emerges from my examination.  I hold to an arrangement that has three sections of accusations (echoing the third outline above).  Each section is composed of three parts: an accusation, an ironical twist of judgment and punishment, and an eschatological statement of folly.  As I examine the passage, this three-part framework will come into view more clearly and key issues will find their appropriate place within the structure.

Before I move into a detailed analysis of the particular text, it is necessary to define my understanding of irony and folly.  Irony, as defined by Leland Ryken, is an “incongruity or discrepancy.”[2] Ryken, further defines three types of literary irony:

Dramatic irony occurs when a reader knows more about what is happening than characters in a story do.  Verbal irony occurs when a writer states something but means exactly the opposite.  Irony of situation occurs when a situation is the opposite of what is expected or appropriate.[3]

In James 5:1-6, we will be dealing with a combination of dramatic and situational irony.  As we will see the “rich men” of the passage are rather ignorant; they expect their actions to produce certain results, when in fact, as James informs us, their conduct sets in motion their downfall.  The common definition of folly is “lack of good sense or of normal prudence and foresight; inability to accept or foresee inevitable consequence; actions or conduct so misguided as to result in destruction or tragedy.”[4] I hope to show how James uses folly as a tool in his condemnation of the rich.

[1] Admittedly, the outlines are in simple form.  Within each general outline scholars may vary in details.  One would need to consult the particular works to see the intricacies of their structure.

[2] Leland Ryken, Words of Life: A Literary Introduction to the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1987), 170.

[3] Ryken, Words of Life, 170.

[4] Webster’s New International Dictionary, third edition.

The Irony of James 5:1–6: Preliminary Concerns

Nearly 10 years ago I took a seminar in New Testament Exegetical Methods with David Scholer (God rest his soul).  I’ve never been particularly pleased with the term paper itself, but I have not forgotten my basic argument about the structure of James 5:1–6. I’ve decided to start picking around at the paper a decade later and see what I can make out of it. Time, energy, and interest may keep me from going anywhere, but I thought I would use a few blog posts to get the argument out on the table and start playing with it.

Sandra Wheeler writes, “Almost everything about the historical background of this epistle has been disputed.” So, I will not spend much time on those things here, other than to highlight some of the issues that have bearing on the passage at hand. In this first post, I look briefly at some preliminary issues. The posts following this one will begin to look at the structural and exegetical issues where my argument for an Accusation-Irony-Folly structure to James 5:1–6 come into focus.


Several exegetes maintain a traditional stance and contend that the author of this epistle is the ecclesiastically revered James, the brother of Jesus.[1] The date of composition would then have to be before 62 C.E., the year of James’s execution (cf. Josephus, Ant. 20.197-203).  A large number of scholars, however, contend that the Epistle of James is pseudonymous and place its composition at a later date (c. 75-125 C.E.).[2] Recently, a handful of scholars have proposed a layered composition, in which James (or his amanuensis) composed a group of writings or homilies, which were later edited and compiled into an epistle.[3] The date of the original material would of course be prior to James’s death.  The date of the final redaction is supposed soon after his death, prior to 70 C.E.  For the most part scholars agree that the epistle was composed somewhere in the broad geographic location of Syro-Palestine, but past this general vicinity opinions vary, with specific locations ranging from Caesarea[4] to Antioch.[5]

Despite the continuing debate surrounding the origin of James, we may draw a few conclusions that will help put some perspective on the interpretation of our passage.  First, no matter who wrote, redacted, or compiled the epistle, the readers are being directed toward the authority of James, the brother of Jesus.[6] Second, the author/editor of the letter apparently was a Hellenized (or at least Greek-speaking) Jewish Christian.[7] Third, a rural Palestinian location seems to not only follow the majority view but also coheres with the agricultural images found in the epistle (1:9-11; 3:3, 11-12, 17-18; 5:4, 7).

The one historical aspect that plays a critical role in the exposition of  5:1-6 is the question of audience.  It is a question not so much concerned with geographic location of the audience; for that, we have stated, can only be assessed in generalities.  The passage at hand leads us to consider the socio-economic composition of the Jacobean community.  And, as Wheeler has explained, the various views regarding the audience are intertwined with the views regarding style and structure of the epistle.[8] We will, therefore, consider audience and style as one complex concern.

The classic view of Martin Dibelius has reigned supreme in scholarship for some time.  Dibelius is well known for having made popular the idea that James was a part of a rich tradition of paraenetic literature.[9] Eclecticism, discontinuity, use of catchwords, repetition of identical motifs, and general moral application characterize paraenesis, according to Dibelius.[10] The paraenetic nature of James, with its hodge-podge of sources and universal appeal does not allow Dibelius to ask about the particular addressees.  Rather, he can only deal with “what sort of Christian James expected and wished to read his letter.”[11] Dibelius claims James understood that to be a Christian who was to be poor.[12] Therefore, the paraenetic material was directed to all poor, oppressed, and ill-treated Christians who were in danger of secularization.[13] In this characterization of James’s intended audience, we find the traditional view of the socio-economic level of the early Christians.  That is, the early Christians were, by in large, homogeneously restricted to the lower social levels.[14] However, scholarship since Dibelius has begun to question both the sweeping paraenetic characterization of the epistle and the comprehensive description of Christianity as uniformly lower class.

Response to Dibelius has not been completely oppositional.  For the most part recent scholarship has only modified Dibelius’s original hypotheses.  An interest in epistolary coherency and more precise historical setting has prompted most modifications.  Many scholars agree that James contains paraenetic material.[15] But despite the lack of structure associated with paraenetic material, very few exegetes would claim that our passage is without or not itself a part of a definite and coherent structure.  A search for structure has led to an abandonment of a strictly paraenetic form as defined by Dibelius.  The Epistle of James has been seen more recently as an oral construction,[16] a published literary letter,[17] a piece of Wisdom literature,[18] and/or a diatribal production.[19] This renewed interest in structural unity and coherence has been brought about in large part by an emphasis on purpose and direction.  Whereas Dibelius saw no other purpose in the epistle than to further a traditional, universal ethic, most scholars are now proclaiming the writer/editor did indeed have a purpose for the epistle’s production.  As well, the writer/editor also had a particular setting from which he was working.  Therefore, one may begin to probe deeper into the socio-economic composition of James’s community.

Studies since the time of Dibelius have shown more texture and variety in earliest Christianity than the homogenous group of poor people suggested by Dibelius’s reflection.  Christian communities were to be found in several parts of the Roman Empire.  It would be difficult to conclude that all primitive Christian communities were socially stratified in the same ways.[20] In fact, E. A. Judge states that membership of the early communities was “drawn from a surprising variety of stations.”[21] He goes so far as to say that early Christianity left the peasantry and slaves “largely untouched.”[22] Though Judge may be swinging the pendulum too far in the other direction, it must be noted that any statement about the social level of James’s addressees must be assessed within a spectrum of early Christianity.

This variety has opened the door for several Jacobean scholars to reconsider the epistle’s audience.  Charlie Boggan has concluded that the community of James was comprised of “large portions of working lower if not the higher middle class.”[23] Similarly, Paul Jurkowitz determined that James was calling his community to become “lower middle-class team players.”[24] However, a majority of scholars has maintained a community of predominant poverty.  The major difference between the current guild which views an impoverished Jacobean community and the pious-poor community posited by Dibelius is the focus on wealth as an actual problem of concern and not merely a traditional religious association.[25]

Our reading of the epistle in these posts is in line with the view of a generally impoverished Christian community.  I agree that not every Christian community was comprised of “the poor,” and therefore I cannot state that piety and poverty are to be equated as a universal early Christian formula (contra Dibelius).  However, as we explore 5:1-6, we will see that James has in mind a community that was struggling with both oppression by the upper strata and a desire to become a part of the upper strata.[26]

[1] cf. Joseph B. Mayor, The Epistle of St. James, Classic Commentary Library (Grand Rapids, MI: Macmillan, 1913; Zondervan, 1954), vii; Alexander Ross, The Epistles of James and John, New International Commentary on the New Testament, ed. Ned B. Stonehouse (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 1954), 13-14; Pedrito U. Maynard-Reid, Poverty and Wealth in James (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1987), 6-7; James B. Adamson, James: The Man and His Message (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 1989), xiv.  For early Christian references to James see Origen, Contra Celsum 1.47; Eusebius Ecclesiastical History, 1.1.2; 2.1.2-3; 2.23.4-7; Epiphanius, Haer. 3.2.

[2] cf. James Hardy Ropes, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle of St. James, International Critical Commentary, vol. 59 (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1916; 1948), 50; Martin Dibelius, James: A Commentary on the Epistle of James, Hermeneia-A Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible, rev. Heinrich Greeven, trans. Michael A. Williams, ed. Helmut Koester (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1976), 21; Sophie Laws, A Commentary on the Epistle of James, Harper’s New Testament Commentaries, v. 17 (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1980), 41; Massey H. Shepherd, Jr., “The Epistle of James and the Gospel of Matthew,” Journal of Biblical Literature 75 (1956), 49; Charlie W. Boggan, “Wealth in the Epistle of James,” (Ph.D. diss., Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1982), 169; Pheme Perkins, First and Second Peter, James, and Jude, Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching, eds. James Luther Mays and Paul J. Achtemeier (Louisville, KY: John Knox Press, 1995), 85; Robert W. Wall, Community of the Wise: The Letter of James, The New Testament in Context, eds. Howard Clark Kee and J. Andrew Overman (Valley Forge, PA: Trinity Press International, 1997), 11;

[3] This description is a distillation of more complex proposals.  cf. Savas C. Agourides, “The Origin of the Epistle of St. James: Suggestion for a Fresh Approach,” The Greek Orthodox Theological Review 9, 1 (1963), 72; Peter H. Davids, The Epistle of James: A Commentary on the Greek Text, The New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 1982), 12-13; Ralph P. Martin, James, Word Biblical Commentary, v. 48 (Waco, TX: Word, 1988), lxi-lxxvii.

[4] Ropes, Epistle of St. James, 49.

[5] Perkins, First and Second Peter, James, and Jude, 84.  Two notable scholars place the letter in or around Rome: Bo Reicke, The Epistles of James, Peter, and Jude: Introduction, Translation, and Notes, The Anchor Bible, 37 (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1964), 6; Laws, A Commentary on the Epistle of James, 26.  An additional noted work places James outside of Syro-Palestine by setting its composition in Egypt: Francis Xavier Kelly, “Poor and Rich in the Epistle of James,” (Ph.D. diss., Temple University, 1973), 254.

[6] cf. Perkins, First and Second Peter, James, and Jude, 85.

[7] For a helpful discussion see Ropes, Epistle of St. James, 48-49.

[8] Wheeler, Wealth as Peril and Obligation, 92-93.

[9] Dibelius, James, 3-5.  cf. John B. Polhill, “The Life-Situation of the Book of James,” Review and Expositor 66 (1969), 372; Harold S. Songer, “The Literary Character of the Book of James,” Review and Expositor 66 (1969), 382-383; Jean-Luc Blondel, “Theology and Paraenesis in James,” Theology Digest 28, 3 (Fall, 1980), 253; Rudolf Schnackenburg, The Moral Teaching of the New Testament, trans. J. Holland-Smith and W. J. O’Hara (New York: Herder and Herder, 1965), 348.

[10] Dibelius, James, 5-11.

[11] Dibelius, James, 46.

[12] Dibelius, James, 44.

[13] Dibelius, James, 46.

[14] cf. Bengt Holmberg, Sociology and the New Testament: An Appraisal (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1990), 28; Boggan, “Wealth in the Epistle of James,” 209.

[15] A majority of scholars incorporate paraenesis into their description.  J. H. Ropes is one notable exception.  He finds paraenesis “far removed from the Epistle of James.”  See Ropes, Epistle of St. James, 7.

[16] cf. P. B. R. Forbes, “The Structure of the Epistle of James,” The Evangelical Quarterly, 44 (1972),148; D. Edmond Hiebert, “The Unifying Theme of the Epistle of James,” Bibliotheca Sacra 135, 539 (July-Sept. 1978), 222.  Those who posit a two-staged composition support a homiletical or oral discourse structure for the first stage.  cf. Peter H. Davids, James, New International Biblical Commentary, 15, ed. W. Ward Gasque (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1983), 7; Agourides, “The Origin of the Epistle of St. James,” 76.

[17] cf. Boggan, “Wealth in the Epistle of James,” 188; Davids, James, 7; Adamson, The Epistle of James, 20.

[18] Paul Jurkowitz, “The Epistle of James: A New Testament Wallflower,” The Bible Today 94 (February 1978), 1479-1483; Wall, Community of the Wise, 20.

[19] The nature of the diatribe varies.  “prophetic and diatribal” in Luke Timothy Johnson, The Letter of James: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary, The Anchor Bible, v. 37a (New York: Doubleday, 1995), 9.  “Hellenistic diatribe” in Ropes, Epistle of St. James, 3.  “Therapeutae/Essene inspired indictment of social justice” in Kelly, “Poor and Rich in the Epistle of James,” 254.

[20] cf. Wayne A. Meeks, The First Urban Christians: The Social World of the Apostle Paul (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1983), 52; Joseph B. Tyson, A Study of Early Christianity (New York: Macmillan, 1973), 285; L. William Countryman, The Rich Christian in the Church of the Early Empire: Contradictions and Accomodations, Texts and Studies in Religion (New York: Edwin Mellen Press, 1980), 33.

[21] Edwin Arthur Judge, The Social Pattern of the Christian Groups in the First Century: Some Prolegomena to the Study of New Testament Ideas of Social Obligation (London: The Tyndale Press, 1960), 54.

[22] Judge, The Social Pattern of the Christian Groups, 60.

[23] Boggan, “Wealth in the Epistle of James,” 128.  Contra Holmberg, Sociology and the New Testament, 22.  Holmberg finds no clearly definable middle class in the first century Roman Empire.

[24] Jurkowitz, “The Epistle of James,” 1483.

[25] Wheeler, Wealth as Peril and Obligation, 93-95; cf. Peter H. Davids, “Theological Perspectives on the Epistle of James,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 23, 2 (June 1980), 100-101; George Peck, “James 5:1-6,” Interpretation 42 (July 1988), 294; Ropes, Epistle of St. James, 40; Robert W. Wall, “James, Letter of,” Dictionary of the Later New Testament and Its Development: A Compendium of Contemporary Biblical Scholarship, eds. Ralph P. Martin and Peter H. Davids (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1997), 550.

[26] “poor-but-wanna-be-rich” Wall, Community of the Wise, 215.

New Covenant Commentary Series

I am currently working with the files for the first two volumes in the New Covenant Commentary Series.  The series description reads:

The New Covenant Commentary Series (NCCS) is designed for ministers and students who require a commentary that interacts with the text and context of each New Testament book and pays specific attention to the impact of the text upon the faith and praxis of contemporary faith communities.

The NCCS has a number of distinguishing features. First, the contributors come from a diverse array of backgrounds in regards to their Christian denominations and countries of origin. Unlike many commentary series that tout themselves as international the NCCS can truly boast of a genuinely international cast of contributors with authors drawn from every continent of the world (except Antarctica) including countries such as the United States, Puerto Rico, Australia, the United Kingdom, Kenya, India, Singapore, and Korea. We intend the NCCS to engage in the task of biblical interpretation and theological reflection from the perspective of the global church. Second, the volumes in this series are not verse-by-verse commentaries, but they focus on larger units of text in order to explicate and interpret the story in the text as opposed to some often atomistic approaches. Third, a further aim of these volumes is to provide an occasion for authors to reflect on how the New Testament impacts the life, faith, ministry, and witness of the New Covenant Community today. This occurs periodically under the heading of “Fusing the Horizons and Forming the Community.” Here authors provide windows into community formation (how the text shapes the mission and character of the believing community) and ministerial formation (how the text shapes the ministry of Christian leaders).

It is our hope that these volumes will represent serious engagements with the New Testament writings, done in the context of faith, in service of the church, and for the glorification of God.

Series Editors:
Michael F. Bird (Highland Theological College, Dingwall, Scotland)
Craig Keener (Palmer Seminary, Philadelphia, USA)

Titles in this series:
Colossians/Philemon by Michael F. Bird
Romans by Craig Keener

Forthcoming titles (in order of projected publication):
Ephesians by Lynn Cohick
James by Pablo Jimenez
1–3 John by Sam Ngewa
Revelation by Gordon Fee
John by Jey Kanagaraj
Pastoral Epistles by Aida Besancon-Spencer
Mark by Kim Huat Tan
Acts by Youngmo Cho
Luke by Jeannine Brown
2 Peter and Jude by Andrew Mbuvi
Matthew by Joel Willits
1 Peter by Eric Greaux
1–2 Thessalonians by David Garland
Philippians by Linda Belleville
Hebrews by Tom Thatcher
Galatians by Brian Vickers
1 Corinthians by Bruce Winter
2 Corinthians by David deSilva

Bird’s and Keener’s volumes should be available by the end of the summer. Here’s a little taste from the early pages of both.

What begs for transformation in many cases is our ecclesiology. Why is the church so diverse, and is this a good thing? After all, diversity breeds difference, debate, and even division. Would not a uniform, homogenous, almost clone-like church be better for unity? Yet the body of Christ has an indelible and irreducible plurality built into it. The church is one body with many parts complete with a unity in diversity. Experiencing the power of forgiveness and being made part of the renewed Israel is a saving event that crosses racial, geographical, and cultural boundaries. Christians have a shared identity in Jesus Christ, they are part of a renewed Adamic race, they have accepted the call to come into Abraham’s family of the faithful, they are forgiven of their wicked and godless ways, and they seek to cultivate the virtues of faith, hope, and love as well. That which unites them is infinitely stronger than anything that might divide them from one another. (Bird)

Whatever else “faith” means for Paul, it is not a human work, whether physical or (as sometimes in Protestantism) mental in nature (Rom 3:27–28; 4:5; 9:32; Gal 2:16; 3:2, 5). It involves dependence on God’s righteousness. This means not a Kierkegaardian “leap into the dark” (reacting to the Kantian consignment of faith to the category of subjectivity), but embracing truth in the gospel (in contrast to the false ideologies of the world; cf. Rom 1:18–23, 28). We should note, however, that just as “righteousness” involves transformation, so the term pistis includes the sense of “faithfulness”—loyalty and allegiance—and not simply an intellectual acknowledgement. Genuine dependence on Christ invites genuine loyalty to him, not simply reciting a statement about him as if nothing is truly at stake. (Keener)

Codex Sinaiticus Conference at The British Library 6th-7th July, 2009

I received the following email today.  Seems interesting.

Codex Sinaiticus

Codex Sinaiticus

Codex Sinaiticus: Text, Bible, Book

The British Library is hosting a two-day conference on the 6th and 7th of July 2009 on behalf of the Codex Sinaiticus Project. The conference will celebrate the virtual reunification of Codex Sinaiticus, an outstanding manuscript which ranks as one of the oldest and most complete Bibles in existence. The event will offer a unique opportunity to hear leading experts from around the world speak about the making, history, text, transmission, conservation and digitisation of this monumentally important manuscript.

Confirmed speakers:
Daniel Batovici
Christfried Böttrich
Christopher Clarkson
Archbishop Damianos
Eldon J. Epp
William Frame
Nicholas Fyssas
Harry Gamble
Juan Garcés
Peter Head
Juan Hernández
Dirk Jongkind
Father Justin
Rachel Kevern
Jan Krans
Ekaterina Krushelnitskaya
René Larsen
Amy Myshrall
Panayotes Nikolopoulos
David Parker
Peter Robinson
Ulrich Schmid
Ulrich Schneider
Helen Shenton
Emanuel Tov
David Trobisch
Kristin de Troyer
J. Verheyden
Klaus Wachtel
Steven Walton

The conference will be complemented by an exhibition at the British Library which will highlight the history of this great book from the time of its creation over 1600 years ago to its twenty-first century appearance in digital form.

To find details on how to book a place at this fascinating event please go to the conference page on the Codex Sinaiticus website where you will also be able to find out more about the manuscript and the work of the Codex Sinaiticus Project: http://www.codexsinaiticus.org/en/project/conference.aspx.

With best wishes,

Juan Garcés
Dr Juan Garcés

Project Manager, Greek Manuscripts Digitisation Projects

The British Library
96 Euston Road
London NW1 2DB
United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)20 7412 7516
Fax: +44 (0)20 7412 7787

Pauline Theosis: Significant for Ephesians Authorship?

One of my most favorite authors, NT scholars, bloggers, and persons, Michael Gorman, was kind enough to have a copy of his latest book sent to me. (Thanks also to the folks at Eerdmans for sending it my way.)

Inhabiting the Cruciform God: Kenosis, Justification, and Theosis in Paul’s Narrative Soteriology examines an implicit conclusion of Gorman’s earlier book, Cruciformity: Paul’s Narrative Spirituality of the Cross(Eerdmans, 2001), explores in more detail a theme found in some of the chapters in Apostle of the Crucified Lord: A Theological Introduction to Paul and His Letters (Eerdmans, 2004), and develops in more depth an argument in Reading Paul (Cascade, 2008). “This new book unpacks the claim that cruciformity is theoformity, or theosis” (2).

I plan to write a short post for each of Gorman’s chapters.  But initially, after skimming the whole, I began to wonder what this discussion of theosis in Paul’s narrative soteriology might have to contribute to our understanding of Ephesians, specifically the authorship of this disputed letter.

Gorman ends his introduction with a description of “what is perhaps at the core of Paul’s theology.”

a narrative soteriology of Spirit-enabled full identification with and participation in the God revealed in Christ crucified, such that the gospel of God reconciling the world in Christ becomes also the story of God’s justified, holy, Spirit-led people in the world. (8)

Then in a footnote, Gorman says that this book “should be seen as a first step in the direction of theosis, with a special focus on the relationship between theosis and justification. Among the themes that will deserve subsequent attention are adoption as God’s children, life in the Spirit, the body of Christ, Adam typology, interchange/exchange, and the resurrection of the body and the nature of eternal life” (8 n.22). I highlight the first three of these other themes because I find them to be important themes in the book of Ephesians (see 1:5; 3:16; and 1:22-23, respectively; see also the cruciform theme of co-resurrection in 2:6). In addition, Gorman himself points to Eph 3:19 as an example of the theme in his discussion. He cites 2 Pet 1:4 as “the classic scriptural text for the doctrine of theosis,” and says “there is no parallel text in the undisputed Pauline letters” (5). But he does call attention to Eph 3:19 and its language of being “filled with all the fullness of God” (5 n.14).

I say all of this because if Gorman’s argument for theosis in Paul is convincing, and if it is right to see strong themes of theosis in Ephesians, then proponents for Paul as author of Ephesians might have something to work with here.


Why does Paul have such resolve to go to Jerusalem after his third expedition despite the warnings?

It is well understood that the Holy Spirit and/or other divine agents direct much of the action of Acts, especially once the Christ movement moves outside of the confines of Jerusalem. Luke goes out of the way to make this clear at times. The initial scattering of the church “throughout the region of Judea and Samaria” came as a result of a great persecution (8:1). But, subsequent scenes have angels of the Lord, the Holy Spirit, and even Jesus himself (in the case of Paul) sending people to and fro.

  • Philip is sent by “an angel of the Lord” (8:26) and the “Spirit” (8:29). He’s also caught up by the Spirit (8:38).
  • Paul is sent by the Lord into the city of Damascus for further instruction (9:6)
  • Ananias is sent by the Lord “to the street called Straight” (9:11).
  • Cornelius has a vision of “an angel of God” and is instructed to send for Peter (10:3-8; cf. 10:30-33; 11:13-14).
  • Peter falls into a trance and hears a voice, after which “the Spirit said to him, ‘…Rise and go down, and accompany [the men] without hesitation; I have sent them” (10:10-12, 19-20; cf. 10:28-29; 11:5-12).
  • Peter is rescued from prison and led into the city by an angel of the Lord (12:7-10; cf. 12:17)
  • Paul and Barnabas are “sent out by the Holy Spirit” from Antioch (13:4), after the Holy Spirit had spoken to the worshipers there (13:2).
  • Paul is forbidden to speak the word in Asia by the Holy Spirit (16:6-7), instead Paul’s vision leads him to conclude “that God had called us to preach the Gospel to [the Macedonians]” (16:9-10).

There are also a few places where forewarnings help Paul escape murderous mobs:

  • He learns of a plot to kill him in Damascus, so his disciples lower him over the city wall in a basket (9:23-25).
  • The Jerusalem believers learn of a plot to kill Paul and send him to Tarsus (9:29-30).
  • The believers of Thessalonica send Paul and Silas to Berea after their proclamation of Jesus as the Christ rouses some people to attack the house of Jason (17:5-10).
  • Paul leaves Asia “when a plot was made against him by the Jews” (20:3).

And, the readers know to trust the words of Agabus, who foretells “by the Spirit that there will be a great famine over all the world” (11:28). Later, too, Agabus warns Paul about his fate in Jerusalem (21:10-11).

So, why then Paul’s resolve?  Acts 19:21 says he “resolved in the Spirit/spirit to pass through Macedonia and Achaia and go to Jerusalem.”  This phrasing, “resolved in the spirit/Spirit,” is a little unique to Acts. Is this another way for Luke to note the Spirit’s direction of action as in the examples listed above? Or, is this more a personal resolve of Paul’s similar to his distressed spirit in Athens (17:16)? Paul himself says to the elders of Ephesus that he is “going to Jerusalem, bound in the Spirit…” (20:22).

Nevertheless, the events of the narrative leading to his arrival in Jerusalem demonstrate it is Paul’s determination more than the involvement of the Spirit that is dictating the movement (see 20:1, 7, 13, 16, 17). It seems to me that Paul’s resolve and his failure to heed warnings goes against what Luke’s readers have been conditioned to expect in Acts. Unless, of course, the readers are to see in Paul’s resolve the similar resolve of Jesus and his movement toward Jerusalem (Luke 13-19). If that is the case, the readers might also expect for Paul a similar fate (see Luke 18:31-33).  Still, I am perplexed by Luke’s use of divine agents to move action along earlier in Acts, but Paul’s resolve moves it along toward the end.


I’m able to subscribe to a couple of journals at work. My problem is deciding which journals would be best. I’ve started a list of possibilities. Any journals I’ve missed? Which ones would you suggest and why? The ones to which I will subscribe will likely be focused on biblical studies (my primary focus) and mostly English (I don’t have the time to muddle through languages for which I have only a loose grasp).

Bible Review
Biblical Interpretation
Biblical Theology Bulletin
Bibliotheca Sacra
Catholic Biblical Quarterly
Currents in Biblical Research
Expository Times
Irish Biblical Studies
Journal for the Study of the New Testament
Journal of Biblical Literature
Journal of Early Christian Studies
Journal of Theological Interpretation
Journal of Theological Studies
New Testament Studies
Novum Testamentum
Religion and Theology
Review & Expositor
Review of Biblical Literature
Reviews in Religion and Theology
Revue Biblique
Scottish Journal of Theology
Scripture Bulletin
Studies in Religion / Sciences Religieuses
Theologische Literaturzeitung
Theologische Revue
Theologische Zeitschrift
Theology Today
Tyndale Bulletin
Word and World
Zeitschrift für die Neutestamentliche Wissenschaft und die Kunde der Älteren Kirche