James 1

Posted: March 1, 2009 in Uncategorized

By request, I will be uploading my powerpoint notes from CCC’s VERY early Men’s Bible Study, which has just finished the Gospel of John and kicked off a study of the Letter from James.  Here we go:

The Letter from James

Who? “James the Just” a brother of Jesus (Gal. 1:19) who was the head of the church at Jerusalem (Acts 15:1-21) and was well-respected by many in the Jewish capital but was nonetheless killed by a mob in 62 A.D.

What? An open congregational letter to the “twelve tribes of the dispersion” (1:1).

When? Anytime between 33-62 A.D.!

Why? Instruction in the face of persecution.

How? James may have cleverly structured his letter as a chiasm…what is a chiasm? Take a look.

A. Joy in trial, 1:2-8

—  B. Rich fade, 1:9-11

—  C. Lustfulness, 1:12-15

—  D. Perfect Gift, 1:16-25

—  E. Restraining the tongue, 1:26

F. “Religion” in deed, 1:27

G. Distinctions of rich and poor, 2:1-13

F. Faith in works, 2:14-26

—  E. Restraining the tongue, 3:1-12

—  D. Wisdom as perfect gift, 3:13-18

—  C. Lustfulness and sin, 4:1-12

—  B. Ways of the rich, 4:13-5:6

A. Patience in suffering, 5:7-2

Thus, 2:1-13 may be the key to understanding the whole letter.

—  The emphasis in 2:1-13 is on the “sin of partiality.”

—  This begs the questions, “How do you define yourselves?” “Others”?

Keep this in mind as you read James and see if this help makes sense of a book that can be incorrectly read as an unstructured, unfocused collection of legalisms.

As you read 1:1-26 this week, see if it makes sense as a type of front end of book ends for the whole letter.

Many scholars argue that ancient rhetorical form is the key to understanding the letter.  After all, it was a letter that would have been read aloud to various churches.

—  Exordium (1:1-12) Announce subject & purpose

—  Narratio (1:13-27) General background of the case

—  Argumentatio (2:1-5:6) Argument

—  Peroratio (5:7-20) Summary

Now, as you read it this week, see if it makes sense as a type of front end of book ends for the whole letter.

1:1 “a slave of God” in 1st century “religious speak” means one possessed by God.  In the OT, Moses, Joshua, David and Obadiah are among those referred to as “slaves of God.”

·         “the twelve tribes” was a phrase that came to be applied to the church as the people of God entrusted with the mission of being an instrument of redemption (Matt. 19:28; Luke 22:29-30; Rev. 7:5-8; 21:12)

—  “the dispersion” was a term that had been applied to the Jews outside of Israel but now apparently applied to the church this side of the 2nd Coming (1 Peter 1:1).

1:2 Chara rendered “joy” is probably better translated “euphoric awe.” It seems to makes more sense in context.

—  “Face” (perpesete)can also be translated “fall into,” thus, these are not circumstances that you can foresee.

—  “testing” can mean “tempting” or “trial” depending on context.

1:3, “faith” can be rendered “belief” or “trust” or “loyalty/allegiance.”

—  This produces “endurance” can also be translated as “a patient state of mind.”

1:4, this mindset finishes “its work” so that you may be mature and complete.

—  The church needs to talk more about “progressive sanctification.”

1:5, an important part of sanctification is wisdom but how do we get it? How should we pray for it? How did Jesus do it?

—  “without finding fault” (NIV) is better translated  “without insult” or “without reproach”

1:6, here “faith” is better rendered “trust.”

1:8, one must decide for “the world” or for God.

—  The idea of “faith” being honed by being “tested” or “tried” is wholly contrary to what is taught by many prominent “ministers.”

—  “The ideal of ‘endurance’ is not attractive to hedonism, for it assumes an understanding of human character based on something more profound than pleasure, possession, or power.” (LTJ, p. 183).

How often have we seen in our study of Luke-Acts, Romans and John the theme of suffering for God?

1:9-10, scholars disagree on whether the “one who is rich” is a “brother.”  “He will pass away” (NIV) may actually be “it may pass away.” However, see Luke 6:20-26 and “he” may better fit v.11. 

—  The “wildflower” allusion (or echo) refers to Isa. 40:7 and its context.  What does it state remains forever?

—  How do we define who is “rich”?

V.12, Where else do we see this? Rev. 2:10.

vv.13-15, is a clarification of the principle enunciated in 1:9-12.

1:13, again context is the determinative factor for the same Greek word is used in 1:2 and 1:12.

—  The Greek simply means that God has nothing to do with evil.

1:14-15, see Romans 1:18-32.  It is simply the outworking of the darkness that lies within each of us.

—  The image is sexual and lurid “lured”, “enticed” and “desired”.

—  The imagery is of pregnancy that births death.

V.16, “deceived” can also be translated “wander” or “go astray.”

V.17, difficult Greek (as is a lot of James) but the basic meaning is that no darkness flows from him at all.

—  How does this square with “open theism”?

V.18, by His own “sovereign will” not because we deserve it.

—  “Word of truth” is “the Gospel”

—  Can you define the Gospel?

—  “Firstfruits” or even “first (and best) sacrifice.”

V.19, “know this” refers back to v.17-18 as well as what follows.

—  “righteousness of God” is tricky. Probably moral standards of God…how is God described?

V.21, who “implants it”? How?

V.22 “doers of the word” is a semitism because in ancient Greek it described a poet.

—  “deceiving yourselves” by thinking they can just affirm the Gospel without living it.

—  How do we live it? Matt. 25 and 28:16-20

vv.23-24, can also be rendered “what sort of person he is”…what do you make of this?

V.25, how is the law freedom? What does Paul say the law does?

V.26, “religious” or “threskia” denotes a relationship with the divine and how is this relationship properly worked out? 

V.27 what are the two things? What is “the world”?


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