Archive for New Testament
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, and “that one and the same group of persons is addressed on repeated occasions.” If one assumes a Christian audience is addressed in 4:13-17, then “the rich” of 5:1 would also be classified as such. 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. It is quite possible that James’ community did include some rich adelphoi (1:9-11). However, this too is a disputed point. 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.
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. 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. 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. 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). 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 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.” 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.” 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. 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. 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.
 cf. Reicke, The Epistles of James, Peter, and Jude, 50.
 Bent Noack, “Jakobus wider die Reichen,” Studia Theologica 18, 1 (1964), 12.
 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).
 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.
 Ralph P. Martin, James, Word Biblical Commentary, v. 48 (Waco, TX: Word, 1988), 25-26.
 Adamson, The Epistle of James, 30.
 Martin, James, 175; cf. Pedrito U. Maynard-Reid, Poverty and Wealth in James (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1987), 81.
 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).
 See Dibelius, James, 39-45, for further explication of the pious-poor motif.
 This style of address to the rich is continued even in early Christian literature. See for example Herm. Vis. 3.9.6
 Davids, The Epistle of James, 175.
 Laws, A Commentary on the Epistle of James, 197-198.
 Boggan, “Wealth in the Epistle of James,” 216.
 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).
 As we will see, it is the ironic twist provided in James’ declarations of accusation and punishment that contributes to the illustration of folly.
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.
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. 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:
- Announcement of miseries (v. 1)
- Rotted Wealth (vv. 2-3a)
- Witness and testimony of rust (v. 3b,c)
- Worthlessness of tre asuring (v. 3d)
- Reasons for miseries
- Withholding wages (v. 4)
- Living luxuriously (v. 5)
- Murdering the righteous(v. 6)
- Announcement of miseries (v.1)
- Description of miseries (v. 2)
- Reasons for miseries
- Hoarding treasure (v.3d, [v.5])
- Illustration (v.4)
- [Luxuriously living (v.5)]
- Murdering the righteous (v.6)
- Hoarding treasure (v.3d, [v.5])
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:
- Announcement of miseries (v. 1)
- 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.” 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.
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.” I hope to show how James uses folly as a tool in his condemnation of the rich.
 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.
 Leland Ryken, Words of Life: A Literary Introduction to the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1987), 170.
 Ryken, Words of Life, 170.
 Webster’s New International Dictionary, third edition.
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.
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)
I received the following email today. Seems interesting.
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.
Eldon J. Epp
Kristin de Troyer
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,
Dr Juan Garcés
Project Manager, Greek Manuscripts Digitisation Projects
The British Library
96 Euston Road
London NW1 2DB
Tel: +44 (0)20 7412 7516
Fax: +44 (0)20 7412 7787